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Full text of "The Mecklenburg declaration of independence : a study of evidence showing that the alleged early declaration of independence by Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, on May 20th, 1775, is spurious"

Presented to the 
LIBRARY of the 

UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO 

by 

Ontario 
Legislative Library 



COPY OF MECKLENBURG DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE, SIGNED MAY 20, 1115. 

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A SOl^VICXIR 

OF THE 117TH ANNIVERSARY, CELEBRATED AT CHARLOTTE, N. C., MAY IX, 19, 20, 1892. 




A fraudulent facsimile lithograph of the alleged original Declaration. 



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A Study of Evidence Showing that the Alleged Early 

Declaration of Independence by Mecklenburg 

County, North Carolina, on May 2Oth, 

1775, is Spurious 



BY 
William Henry Hoyt, A. M, 



G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS 

NEW YORK AND LONDON 

Gbe 'Knickerbocker press 

1907 



COPYRIGHT, 1907 

BY 
WILLIAM KENRY HOYT 




PREFACE 

SINCE it was first brought to the attention of the 
general public in the year 1819, the declaration of 
independence which is alleged to have been issued 
on May 20, 1775, by a convention held in Charlotte* 
Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, has been the 
subject of the most mooted question and acrimo- 
nious controversy of the history of the Ameri- 
can Revolution. Evidences dating from 1775 and 
onward of a document of this nature, copies of 
doubtful origin of the document in question, a copy 
written from memory in 1800, testimony of reliable 
persons who stated between 1819 and 1830 that they 
had been spectators and participants at a meeting 
which adopted it, and traditions are cited to prove 
the genuineness and authenticity of the Mecklen- 
burg Declaration of Independence. In 1830, after 
the publication of the trenchant letter of Thomas 
Jefferson expressing his belief that the paper was a 
fabrication, the Legislature of North Carolina took 
up the matter, and affirmed the Mecklenburg Dec- 
laration to be genuine and authentic. To-day, in 
North Carolina, it is engrafted upon the statute 
books, the date it bears is emblazoned upon the 
great seal of the State, and the anniversary of its 

iii 



iv Preface 

alleged promulgation is observed by legislative en- 
actment. The consensus of opinion of critical 
students of American history is opposed to its 
authenticity ; but from the beginning of the con- 
troversy there have been two hostile camps, each 
fortified by what are regarded as unanswerable 
arguments. If this verdict be reversed, we must 
conclude, contrary to long-accepted views, and with 
the older British historians, that before May, 1775, 
there was a conscious movement in the colonies hav- 
ing independence as its aim, and we must admit 
that some of the most striking expressions of Jef- 
ferson's immortal document of thirteen months 
later were borrowed from the Mecklenburg mani- 
festo. Herein lies the chief historical importance 
of the question. 

Because of the absence of new evidence of im- 
portance there has been comparatively little discus- 
sion of the perplexing problem since the centennial 
celebration of the Mecklenburg Declaration at 
Charlotte in 1 875. Renewed interest was awakened 
by the publication in July, 1905, of a facsimile of 
the disputed document as it appeared in what pur- 
ported to be a long-lost copy of the Cape-Fear 
Mercury, a colonial newspaper in which it is said to 
have been printed. The paper was soon shown to be 
a forgery by the advocates as well as by the oppo- 
nents of the authenticity of the Mecklenburg Declar- 
ation. Interest has been accentuated and general 
acceptance of the declaration rendered seemingly 
imminent by Dr. George W. Graham's elaborate 
presentation of the arguments for its authenticity 



Preface v 

and by new light of much significance which late 
researches by those who uphold the claims of Meck- 
lenburg have brought to bear upon the subject. 

The purpose of this monograph is to show that 
all the evidence, new and old, which is cited in sup- 
port of the genuineness and authenticity of the 
Mecklenburg Declaration, should be understood as 
relating to a series of resolves of similar import, 
which were adopted in Mecklenburg County May 
31, 17/5, and that the several versions of the sup- 
posititious paper of May 20, 1775, trace their origin 
to rough notes written from memory in 1800 by 
John McKnitt Alexander, who believed those re- 
solves to be a declaration of independence and at- 
tempted to set forth their substance. In preparing 
the work I have gone to original sources of infor- 
mation wherever it has been possible. Hitherto 
inaccessible manuscripts are adduced to demon- 
strate the origin of the famous resolutions of 
May 20, 1775, and the successive stages of their 
construction. 

Unfortunately for the cause of historic truth, the 
enthusiasm of local pride and patriotism in North 
Carolina, where the Mecklenburg Declaration, 
vouched for, as it is, by the personal testimony of 
North Carolina patriots of the Revolution, has been 
regarded with peculiar veneration for close upon a 
hundred years ; the charges of plagiarism against 
Thomas Jefferson and of forgery against John Mc- 
Knitt Alexander ; the disappearance of the Cape- 
Fear Mercury from the British State Paper Office 
in 1837 under circumstances which would seem 



vi Preface 

to indicate that Jefferson's defenders destroyed 
evidence of the Mecklenburg Declaration ; and, 
finally, the fact that the reputed signers of this 
declaration were all, or nearly all, members of 
one religious denomination, have each added fuel 
to the fires of controversy and contributed to pro- 
duce an intolerant spirit which has been a bane 
to sober discussion. As it was in 1853 and in 1873, 
when Charles Phillips and Daniel R. Goodloe were 
the first North Carolinians since an unknown gladia- 
tor of 1830 who ventured to dispute the authenticity 
of the paper of May 20, 1775, it is inevitable to-day 
that a publication which discredits the proudest 
page in the history of North Carolina should en- 
gender in some quarters an unkindly feeling for its 
author. In discharging my ungrateful office, I 
write simply as a student of history, inspired with a 
special love for the history of the " Old North 
State," and with a profound veneration for the 
Mecklenburg patriots of 1775. I came to my sub- 
ject before Dr. George W. Graham's book was an- 
nounced with the intention of writing a defence of 
the authenticity of the Mecklenburg Declaration, 
but the irresistible logic of facts drove me to my 
present position. 

For the first incentive to undertake this work and 
for advice and encouragement during its prepara- 
tion, I am under an obligation to Prof. Samuel F. 
Emerson, of the University of Vermont, which it is 
a pleasure to acknowledge here. Some of the ma- 
terials which I have used were unearthed by Mr. A. 
S. Salley, Jr., Secretary of the Historical Commission 



Preface vii 

of South Carolina, and published during the past 
year in a series of articles contributed by him to the 
Charleston News and Courier. For courtesies ex- 
tended to me while collecting materials my ac- 
knowledgments are due to Messrs. B. F. Stevens 
and Brown, of London, the Earl of Dartmouth, Dr. 
William C. Lane, Librarian of Harvard University, 
Dr. Kemp P. Battle, of the University of North 
Carolina, Dr. Reuben G. Thwaites, of the State His- 
torical Society of Wisconsin, Dr. Stephen B. Weeks, 
of San Carlos, Arizona, Mr. Edward P. Moses, of 
Raleigh, N. C., Mr. Waldo G. Leland, of the Car- 
negie Institution, Mr. Victor H. Paltsitts, of the 
New York Public Library, and Mrs. C. S. Coles, 
of Washington, D. C. I have also to thank Mr. 
Salley for reading the proofs of the book and for 
many valuable suggestions. 

W. H. H. 
BURLINGTON, VT., 
September 2, 1906. 



CONTENTS 



CHAPTER I 

PACK 

HISTORY OP THE CONTROVERSY. 

Causes that led to the exhuming of the Mecklenburg 
Declaration (1817-19). Jefferson and Adams believe it 
to be spurious (1819). The incredulous are silenced by 
surviving witnesses. Jefferson's opinion becomes known 
(1829) and the Legislature of North Carolina publishes 
testimony (1830-31). Contemporaneous evidence of 
such a document discovered (1833). Jefferson openly 
accused of plagiarism (1837). May 3ist resolves found 
(1838) after all survivors had passed away and said to 
be the ones they remembered. Dr. Hawks testifies 
(1852) that the Martin copy was obtained before 1800. 
It is learned (1853) that the Davie copy was written 
from memory in 1800. The fact long ignored. Dr. 
Graham argues (1895, 1905) that the May 3ist resolves 
were never adopted 1-21 

CHAPTER II 

THE TRUE "DECLARATION." 

Genuineness and authenticity of the May 3ist resolves 
proved by their publication in Charleston and New-Bern 
newspapers. In effect, a declaration of independence, 
and might have been remembered as such . . .22-31 

CHAPTER III 

THE RIVAL DECLARATIONS COMPARED. 

Both papers,if authentic, were adopted by the Committee 
of the County of Mecklenburg. The May 3ist resolves 
ignored, annulled, and effected in a milder way all that 



Contents 

PAGE 

is alleged to have been done and unanimously approved 
eleven days earlier. Survivors remembered only one 
such document, which was not suppressed or superseded. 32-40 

CHAPTER IV 



Gov. Martin's statements, the only records of 1775 that 
support the Declaration. Though well informed his 
proclamation of June 16, 1775, shows no knowledge of 
it. Ignorance of Whig leaders on June aist and their 
loyalty revealed by the Wilmington "Association*! 
and reply to his proclamation. On June 3oth he dis- 
patched to England a newspaper containing Mecklen- 
burg resolutions and the reply to his proclamation. 
Fallacious arguments to prove that Jefferson's defenders 
stole it in 1837. The May 3ist resolves sent in the dupli- 
cate dispatch instead of the newspaper. Which was 
the Cape-Fear Mercury of June 23, 1775. The resolves 
positively identified and the Governor's ignorance of 
others ascertained by his subsequent statements. Tories 
of Mecklenburg protest against the May 3ist resolves 
alone. Gov. Wright, Cogdell, and Johnston each leave 
records of the May 31 st resolves alone .... 41-62 

CHAPTER V 

CAPTAIN JACK'S MISSION TO PHILADELPHIA. 

Conflicting testimony of the witnesses and Gov. Martin 
as to which resolves were sent to Philadelphia. Gov. 
Martin sustained by the Salisbury records. Inconsist- 
ency of the answers of the Continental Congress and 
North Carolina delegates, if made to the Declaration, 
with their professions of allegiance. Impossibility of its 
concealment by the delegates, and Adams's and Jeffer- 
son's testimony. True story of Capt. Jack's mission 
disclosed by the important relation of the May 3ist re- 
solves to the political situation in the colonies. And by 
their suppression in Philadelphia 6382 

CHAPTER VI 

THE SALISBURY RECORDS. 

The Declaration not known in Salisbury eleven days 



Contents 



PAGE 



after its alleged promulgation. Other circumstances 
that can be explained only by connecting its story with 
the May 31 st resolves 83-87 

CHAPTER VII 



Subsequent conduct of reputed "signers": Kennon 
practises in the King's courts; Avery appointed Attor- 
ney for the Crown; Abraham, Hezekiah, and Adam 
Alexander, Irwin, Barry and Foard administer justice 
for Mecklenburg in the King's name; Polk, John Mc- 
Knitt Alexander, Phifer, Avery, and Kennon formally 
acknowledge allegiance in the Hillsboro Congress; every 
"true friend to liberty" does so in Mecklenburg. Argu- 
ments answered : reconciliation the aim of the Hillsboro 
Congress ; membership in it not improper for the authors 
of the May 3 1 st resolves ; Whigs and Tories deny that the 
idea of independence took root in North Carolina before 
1776. Summary of facts established by contempo- 
raneous records ........ 88103 

CHAPTER VIII 

ORIGIN OF THE MYTH. 

Independent spirit of the May 3ist resolves. Called a 
declaration of independence by many writers. Like 
measures looked upon before July 4, 1776, as equivalent 
to independence. How their provisional character was 
forgotten. Early evidence of the myth: "A Modern 
Poem" (1777) the Swain copy probably fraudulent; 
the Moravian record (1783); Charlotte deeds which date 
independence from 1775 uncertainty of their signifi- 
cance. Date of May 20, 1775, not part of the myth be- 
fore 1800 104-124 



CHAPTER IX 



THE DAVIE COPY. 



Bancroft obtained reproductions of two papers certified 
by " J. McKnitt" to be those from which he copied in 
1819. Their internal evidence shows that Alexander's 
notes were written from memory in 1800 or soon after- 
wards, and were the rudiments of the second paper. 



xii Contents 

"J. McKnitt" certified the latter to be the same as the 
Davie copy, and Alexander certified the Davie copy to 
have been written from memory in 1800. Comparison 
of his notes with the May jist resolves proves that he 
tried to write their substance. The Davie prototype 
partly, if not wholly, the work of the unknown writer. 
Answers to Prof. Phillips's charges of fraud against " J. 
McKnitt." Alexander told his story to many persons 
after 1800, and the date which he recollected thus be- 
came known 125173 

CHAPTER X 

THE MARTIN AND GARDEN COPIES. 

Martin a voluminous writer, an unreliable historian, and 
in his dotage when he told Dr. Hawks that he obtained 
his copy prior to 1800. Internal evidence of his book 
shows that the resolutions and accompanying narrative 
were inserted after its completion. Col. Polk wrote for 
Judge Murphey in 1819 a narrative containing reso- 
lutions procured from "J. McKnitt.'' Its publication 
by Murphey in amended form proved by the MS. and 
his correspondence. Its republication by Martin 
proved by comparing his narrative and resolutions with 
Folk's. The fact confirmed by the Garden, Murphey, 
and "Guilford" narratives. And by allusions to Mur- 
phey in Martin's preface 174-201 

CHAPTER XI 

THE TESTIMONY OF WITNESSES. 

Probable cause of the suppression of the certificate to the 
Davie paper. Difficulties and prepossessions under 
which the witnesses testified. Yet the majority remem- 
bered terms peculiar to the May 3ist resolves. Their 
testimony to the date of May 20, 1775, of no value. 
They contradict Alexander's recollection as to who sum- 
moned the meeting and who acted as secretary. Un- 
warrantable alteration of the Alexander MSS. caused 
thereby. Story of the signing of the Declaration prob- 
ably unfounded 202-221 



Contents xiii 

APPENDIX 

PAGE 

A. COLONEL POLK'S TRANSCRIPT OF THE DOCUMENT PRE- 

PARED BY "J. McKNITT" FROM HIS FATHER'S PAPERS 
AND PUBLISHED WITH EMENDATIONS IN THE Raleigh 

Register, APRIL 30, 1819 225-229 

B. THE STATE PAMPHLET 230-270 

C. THE MECKLENBURG RESOLVES AS PRINTED IN THE North- 

Carolina Gazette OF JUNE 16, 1775, NO. 323 . . 271-275 

D. TRANSCRIPT OF THE MECKLENBURG RESOLVES IN THE 

Cape-Fear Mercury OF JUNE 23, 1775, SENT IN GOVER- 
NOR MARTIN'S DUPLICATE LETTER OF JUNE 30, 1775 276280 

E. COLONEL WILLIAM POLK'S ACCOUNT OF FIRST REVOLU- 

TIONARY MOVEMENTS IN NORTH CAROLINA . . 281-284 






ILLUSTRATIONS 

A fraudulent facsimile lithograph of the alleged original 

declaration ........ Frontispiece 

(Kindly lent by Mr. A. S. Salley, Jr.) 

The spurious Cape-Fear Mercury, Friday, June 3rd, 

1775 facing 53 

(By permission of the Macmillan Co.) 

Bancroft's copy of the " torn half sheet " in John McKnitt 
Alexander's handwriting from which the Mecklenburg 
Declaration was constructed (6 plates) facing 1 26, 127, 128, 129, 130, 131 

The Bancroft copyist's description of the " sheet" in an 
" unknown handwriting " from which the publication 
of 1819 was copied (3 plates) .... facing 132, 133, 134 

Copy of the certificate attached by Dr. Joseph McKnitt 
Alexander to the anonymous manuscript and his 
father's (2 plates) facing 135, 136 



xv 



The Mecklenburg 
Declaration of Independence 



CHAPTER I 

HISTORY OF THE CONTROVERSY 

THE publication of William Wirt's Life of Pat- 
rick Henry in 1817, in which Wirt claimed that 
Patrick Henry " gave the first impulse to the ball 
of the Revolution," was followed by a discussion 
as to whether the earliest movements that led to 
American independence took place in Virginia or 
in Massachusetts. During the winter of 1818-19, 
when the subject was a topic of conversation 
at Washington among members of Congress, the 
assertion was there made that the people of 
Mecklenburg county, in North Carolina, formally 
declared themselves independent of Great Britain 
before the 4th of July, 1776.* The statement was 

1 C. Tait to Gen. P. Jack, January 25, 1819, in The Address of the Hon. 
Wm. A. Graham on the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, delivered 
at Charlotte, February 4, 1875 (cited hereafter as Gov. Graham's Address), 
113-114 ; and correspondence of John Adams ( Works, x.) and of Thomas 
Jefferson (Writings, Ford ed., x.) during the year 1818. 

i 



2 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

apparently received with incredulity. For satis- 
factory information relative to the matter two of 
the North Carolina members, Senator Nathaniel 
Macon and William Davidson, the representative 
from the Mecklenburg district, wrote to persons 
in that section of the country. Davidson, who had 
probably brought forward the claim for Mecklen- 
burg, applied to Dr. Joseph McKnitt Alexander, 
and received from him a full account of the dis- 
puted event, which he said he had copied from 
papers left by his father, John McKnitt Alexander. 
Macon directed his inquiry to General Joseph 
Graham, who forwarded the letter to Dr. Alexan- 
der's brother, William B. Alexander, with a request 
that he furnish Macon with all information that his 
father's papers could supply. William B. Alexan- 
der wrote Macon on February 7, 1819, that his 
brother had furnished William Davidson with all 
that could be found. " Nearly all of my father's 
papers," he said, "were burned in the spring of 
1800, which destroyed the papers now wanted, as 
I believe he acted as secretary to the committee 
that declared independence for this county in 

1775." 

Macon endeavored to procure information to 
verify statements in the document received by 
Davidson, which had been placed in his hands 
a month or more before William B. Alexander's 
letter reached him, but was unsuccessful. He 
appears not to have doubted its trustworthiness, 
however, and he sent it with an old proclamation 
that William B. Alexander had found among his 



History of the Controversy 3 

father's papers to the editor of the Raleigh Register 
and North Carolina Gazette, published in Raleigh, 
North Carolina. 1 It appears in the issue of 
Friday, April 30, 1819 (Vol. xx., No. 1023), as 
follows : 3 

DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE. 

It is not probably known to many of our readers, that the 
citizens of Mecklenburg County, in this State made a Declara- 
tion of Independence more than a year before Congress made 
theirs. The following Document on the subject has lately 
come to the hands of the Editor from unquestionable author- 
ity, and is published that it may go down to posterity. 



NORTH-CAROLINA, Mecklenburg County, 
May 20, 



In the spring of 1775, the leading characters of Mecklen- 
burg county, stimulated by that enthusiastic patriotism which 
elevates the mind above considerations of individual aggran- 
disement, and scorning to shelter themselves from the impend- 
ing storm by submission to lawless power, &c. &c. held several 
detached meetings, in each of which the individual sentiments 
were " that the cause of Boston was the cause of all ; that 
their destinies were indissolubly connected with those of 
their Eastern fellow-citizens and that they must either 
submit to all the impositions which an unprincipled, and to 
them an unrepresented parliament might impose or support 
their brethren who were doomed to sustain the first shock 

1 Raleigh Register editorial, August 6, 1819 (reprinted in Niles : Prin- 
ciples and Acts of the Revolution, 135-136) ; and C. Tait to P. Jack, 
in Gov. Grahants Address^ 113-114. 

8 From the file in the Library of Congress. A proclamation of Gov. 
Martin of North Carolina, dated Charlotte-Town, October 3, 1780, was 
printed in the same issue, " as a curiosity." A copy of the original MS., 
sent by Dr. J. McKnitt Alexander to Wm. Davidson, made by Col. Wm. 
Polk in 1819, and now in the New York Public Library, will be found in 
the Appendix. 



4 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

of that power, which, if successful there, would ultimately 
overwhelm all in the common calamity. Conformably to 
these principles, Col. Adam Alexander, through solicitation, 
issued an order to each Captain's Company in the county of 
Mecklenburg, (then comprising the present county of Cabar- 
rus) directing each militia company to elect two persons, and 
delegate to them ample power to devise ways and means 
to aid and assist their suffering brethren in Boston, and 
also generally to adopt measures to extricate themselves from 
the impending storm, & to secure unimpaired their inalienable 
rights, privileges and liberties from the dominant grasp of 
British imposition and tyranny. 

In conforming to said Order, on the ipth of May, 1775, the 
said delegation met in Charlotte, vested with unlimited 
powers ; at which time official news, by express, arrived of the 
Battle of Lexington on that day of the preceding month. 
Every delegate felt the value & importance of the prize, & 
the awful & solemn crisis which had arrived every bosom 
swelled with indignation at the malice, inveteracy and insati- 
able revenge developed in the late attack at Lexington. The 
universal sentiment was : let us not natter ourselves that pop- 
ular harangues or resolves ; that popular vapor will avert the 
storm, or vanquish our common enemy let us deliberate let 
us calculate the issue the probable result ; and then let us 
act with energy as brethren leagued to preserve our property 
our lives, and what is still more endearing, the liberties of 
America. Abraham Alexander was then elected Chairman, 
and John M'Knitt Alexander , Clerk. After a free and full 
discussion of the various objects for which the delegation had 
been convened, it was unanimously Ordained 

1. Resolved, That whosoever directly or indirectly abetted, 
or in any way, form or manner countenanced the unchartered 
and dangerous invasion of our rights, as claimed by Great- 
Britain, is an enemy to this Country, to America, and to the 
inherant and inalienable rights of man. 

2. Resolved, That we the citizens of Mecklenburg County, 
do hereby dissolve the political bands which have connected 
us to the Mother Country, and hereby absolve ourselves from 



History of the Controversy 5 

all allegiance to the British Crown, and abjure all political 
connection, contract or association with that Nation, who 
have wantonly trampled on our rights and liberties and in- 
humanly shed the innocent blood of American patriots at 
Lexington. 

3. Resolved, That we do hereby declare ourselves a free and 
independent People, are and of right ought to be, a sovereign 
and self-governing Association, under the control of no power 
other than that of our God and the General Government of 
the Congress ; to the maintenance of which independence, we 
solemnly pledge to each other our mutual cooperation, our 
lives, our fortunes, and our most sacred honor. 

4. Resolved, That as we now acknowledge the existence and 
control of no law or legal officer, civil or military, within this 
County, We do hereby ordain and adopt, as a rule of life, all, 
each and every of our former laws, wherein, nevertheless, the 
Crown of Great-Britain never can be considered as holding 
rights, privileges, immunities or authority therein. 

5. Resolved, That it is also further decreed, that all, each 
and every military officer in this county is hereby reinstated to 
his former command and authority, he acting conformably to 
these regulations. And that every member present of this 
delegation shall henceforth be a civil officer, viz : a Justice of 
the Peace, in the character of a "Committee man," to issue 
process, hear and determine all matters of controversy, accord- 
ing to said adopted laws, and to preserve peace, and union, 
and harmony in said County, and to use every exertion to 
spread the love of country and fire of freedom throughout 
America, until a more general and organized government be 
established in this province. 

A number of bye-laws were also added, merely to protect 
the association from confusion and to regulate their general 
conduct as citizens. After sitting in the Courthouse all night, 
neither sleepy, hungry, or fatigued, and after discussing every 
paragraph, they were all passed, sanctioned and declared 
unanimously, about 2 o'clock, A. M. May 20. In a few days 
a deputation of said delegation convened, when Capt. James 
Jack of Charlotte was deputed as express to the Congress at 



6 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

Philadelphia, with, a copy of said Resolves and Proceedings, 
together with a letter addressed to our three Representatives 
there, viz : Richard Caswell, Wm. Hooper and Joseph Hughes 
under express injunction, personally, and through the state 
representation, to use all possible means to have said proceed- 
ings sanctioned and approved by the General Congress. On 
the return of Capt. Jack, the delegation learned that their 
proceedings were individually approved by the members of 
Congress, but that it was deemed premature to lay them before 
the House. A joint letter from said three members of Con- 
gress was also received, complimentary of the zeal in the 
common cause, and recommending perseverance, order and 
energy. 

The subsequent harmony, unanimity and exertion in the 
cause of liberty and independence, evidently resulting from 
these regulations, and the continued exertion of said delega- 
tion, apparently tranquilised this section of the State, and met 
with the concurrence and high approbation of the Council of 
Safety, who held their sessions at Newbern and Wilmington 
alternately, and who confirmed the nomination and acts of 
the delegation in their official capacity. 

From this delegation originated the Court of Enquiry of this 
County, who constituted and held their first session in Char- 
lotte they then held their meetings regularly at Charlotte, at 
Col. James Harris's and at Col. Phifer's alternately one week 
at each place. It was a civil Court founded on military 
process. Before this judicature all suspicious persons were 
made to appear, who were formally tried and banished, 
or continued under guard. Its jurisdiction was as un- 
limited as toryism, and its decrees as final as the con- 
fidence and patriotism of the County. Several were arrested 
and brought before them from Lincoln, Rowan and the adjacent 
counties 

[The foregoing is a true copy of the papers on the above 
subject, left in my hands by John M'Knitt Alexander, dec'd ; 
I find it mentioned on file that the original book was burned 
April, 1800. That a copy of the proceedings was sent to 
Hugh Williamson in New York, then writing a History of 



History of the Controversy 7 

North-Carolina, and that a copy was sent to Gen. W. R. 
Davie. J. M'KNITT.] 1 

This article was extensively copied by the news- 
papers of the country, 2 and came to the notice of 
the venerable John Adams in the Essex Register 
of June 5, 1819, published in Salem, Massachusetts. 
Adams sent a copy of the newspaper to Thomas 
Jefferson as containing " one of the greatest curi- 
ositys and one of the deepest Mysterys " that ever 
occurred to him. 3 He wrote thus of it : 

How is it possible that this paper should have been con- 
cealed from me to this day ? had it been communicated to 
me in the time of it, I know, if you do not know, that it would 
have been printed in every Whig newspaper upon this Con- 
tinent, you know if I had possessed it, I would have made 
the Hall of Congress Echo and re-echo with it fifteen mongths 
before your Declaration of Independence. What a poor, 
ignorant, malicious, short-sighted, Crapulous Mass is Tom 
Pain's Common Sense, in comparison with this paper, had 
I known it, I would have commented upon it from the day you 
entered Congress till the fourth of July, 1776. The genuine 
sense of America at that moment was never so well expressed 
before, nor since. 

Adams evidently dictated this letter current e 
calamo. A little reflection would have told him that 
the " genuine sense of America at that moment " 

1 Dr. Joseph McKnitt Alexander usually omitted his surname in his 
signature because of the commonness of the name Alexander in Mecklen- 
burg, and was frequently spoken of and addressed as " J. McKnitt." 
Gov. Graham's Address, 29-30. The writer has seen several of his private 
letters, all bearing this signature. 

8 Raleigh Register, August 6, 1819. 

* June 22, 1819. From the original letter, written by an amanuensis and 
signed by Adams, in the Jefferson MSS. in the Library of Congress. It is 
printed in the Works of Adams, x., 380-381. 



8 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

was opposed to independence. Even he and Jeffer- 
son still desired reconciliation with Great Britain 
in May, 1775, and few men then dared to openly 
advocate independence. Mindful of their former 
bitter political rivalry, which had given way, in the 
evening of life, to the friendship of earlier days, 
he probably wrote with some satisfaction in 
the thought that his successful rival would wince 
under his lavish praises of the new-found de- 
claration of independence and the implied charge 
of plagiarism which they conveyed ; for Adams 
was convinced that either the Mecklenburg De- 
claration or Jefferson's Declaration borrowed one 
from the other. Before he received Jefferson's 
reply, Adams wrote one of his correspondents : 1 

I was struck with so much astonishment on reading this 
document that I could not help inclosing it immediately to 
Mr. Jefferson, who must have seen it, in the time of it, for he 
has copied the spirit, the sense, and the expressions of it 
verbatim into his Declaration of the 4th of July, 1776. . . . 
That paper must be more universally made known to the 
present and future generation. 

Unlike Adams, Jefferson was not ready to accept 
the paper of Mecklenburg. He was doubtless as 
much annoyed as Adams anticipated. " And you 
seem to think it genuine," he wrote Adams. 2 " I 
believe it spurious. I deem it to be a very unjus- 
tifiable quiz, like that of the volcano, so minutely 
related to us as having broken out in North Carolina, 

1 Adams to William Bentley, July, 15, 1819, Works , x., 381. 
9 Jefferson to Adams, July 9,1819, Writings (Ford ed.), x., 136-139. 
This letter forms a part of the "State Pamphlet ", reprinted in the Appendix. 



History of the Controversy 9 

some half a dozen years ago, ..." It is not 
remarkable that his inability to find any notice 
of the publication of the resolutions by the Raleigh 
Register, after a lapse of two months, in Thomas 
Ritchie's newspaper at Richmond and in the Na- 
tional Intelligencer of Washington, the leading 
journal of the country and edited by a son of the 
editor of the Raleigh Register, should have led 
Jefferson to express his doubt whether they were 
really copied from that paper by the Essex Register \ 
and to deem them to be one of the hoaxes frequently 
published in the newspapers of the day the work, 
perhaps, of the " Essex Junto" class of statesmen, 
ever ready to traduce his reputation. But the 
tone of Adams's letter seems to have so disturbed 
his equanimity that in attempting to point out the 
marks of spuriousness he mistook the name of 
Richard Caswell, who had been dead many years, 
for that of William R. Davie, then living, as the 
person mentioned in the certificate accompanying 
the resolutions to whom John McKnitt Alexander 
had given a copy of them ; and, confounding the 
" delegation " of Mecklenburg county, to whose 
continued "exertion in the cause of liberty and 
independence " the paper referred, with the North 
Carolina delegates in the Continental Congress, 
who were said to have approved the resolutions, 
he rashly said that "we had not a greater tory 
in Congress than Hooper ; that Hughes was 
very wavering, sometimes firm, sometimes feeble, 
according as the day was clear or cloudy ; that 
Caswell, indeed, was a good whig, and kept these 



io The Mecklenburg Declaration 

gentlemen to the notch, while he was present ; but 
that he left us soon, and their line of conduct be- 
came uncertain until Penn came, who fixed Hughes 
and the vote of the State." In saying that there 
was " not a greater tory " in the Continental Con- 
gress than William Hooper, Jefferson clearly did 
not mean that he was a loyalist : he rightly placed 
Hooper and Hewes, both North Carolina signers 
of the Declaration of Independence, among the 
number of those sturdy patriots who hesitated to 
the last to break off all political connection with the 
mother country, and who had a majority in the 
Continental Congress until June, 17 76. * "I must 
not be understood," said Jefferson, "as sugges- 
ting any doubtfulness in the State of North Caro- 
lina. No State was more fixed or forward. Nor 
do I affirm, positively, that this paper is a fabri- 
cation ; because the proof of a negative can only 
be presumptive. But I shall believe it such until 
positive and solemn proof of its authenticity shall 
be produced." Jefferson based his opinion 
on the utter lack of contemporary evidence 
of "this flaming declaration," although sent 
to the Continental Congress, and the silence 
of historians. 

Jefferson showed unworthy pique in defending 
the originality of his immortal document as far as 
the " apocryphal " paper of Mecklenburg was con- 
cerned ; but his letter contained facts and argu- 

1 Post, pp. 69-72. Cf. W. E. Dodd, Life of Nathaniel Macon, 19-20. 
According to John Adams, the majority long depended upon the vote of 
Joseph Hewes, Works, x. t 35, 381. 



History of the Controversy 1 1 

ments which have never been shaken by testimony 
since discovered. 

It has entirely convinced me [wrote Adams in reply] l that 
the Mecklengburg Resolutions are a fiction, when I first read 
them in the Essex Register, I was struck with astonishment. 
It appeared to me utterly incredible that they should be 
genuine ; but there were so many circumstances calculated 
to impose on the public that I thought it my duty to take 
measures for the detection of the imposture, for this purpose 
I instantly inclosed the Essex Register to you, knowing that 
if you had either seen or heard of these resolutions, you would 
have informed me of it. as they are unknown to you, they 
must have been unknown to all mankind. I have sent a Copy 
of your letter to Salem, not to be printed, but to be used as 
decisive authority for the Editor to correct his error in the 
Essex Register. 

Adams asks who the " Demon " could have been 
to invent the hoax, perhaps with intent to bring a 
charge of plagiarism against Jefferson, or for the 
" mere vanity of producing a jeu d'esprit, to set the 
world agasp and afford a topic of conversation in 
this piping time of Peace." He, too, appears to 
have doubted after hearing from Jefferson whether 
it was copied from the Raleigh newspaper, for he 
wrote Jefferson a week later 3 and sent a copy of 
the National Register, " to convince you that the 
Essex Register is not to blame for printing the 
Mecklingburg County Resolutions." 

On July 24, 1819, three days after Adams wrote 
Jefferson that he had sent a copy of his letter 
to Salem, the Essex Register announced that the 

1 Adams to Jefferson, July 21, 1819, Jefferson MSS., Library of 
Congress. 

* Adams to Jefferson, July 28, 1819, Jefferson MSS. 



12 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

Mecklenburg resolutions copied from the Raleigh 
Register had not had universal credit, and that al- 
though the publisher said that they rested on high 
authority, the public would be pleased to know more 
about them. 1 In reply, the editor of the Raleigh 
Register published on August 6, 1819, a statement of 
the causes that had led to the exhuming and pub- 
lication of the resolutions. " The plot thickens," 
wrote Adams to a friend on seeing this explana- 
tory statement. 2 " The name of the Cato of North 
Carolina, the honest, hoary-headed, stern, determined 
republican, Macon, strikes me with great force." 
But " an accumulation of miracles," some of which 
will be noticed later, opposed an insuperable barrier 
to a belief by Adams in the authenticity of the Meck- 
lenburg resolutions. " Haud credo ", he said. " I 
cannot believe that they were known to one member 
of Congress on the fourth of July, 1776. . . . The 
Declaration of Independence made by Congress on 
the fourth of J uly, 1 7 76, is a document, an instrument, 
a record that ought not to be disgraced or trifled with. 
. . . That this fiction is ancient and not modern 
seems to be ascertained. It is of so much more im- 
portance that it should be thoroughly investigated." 
The opinions of these two last surving members 
of the Continental Congress of 1775 were not made 
public at this time, and the editor of the Raleigh 

1 Raleigh Register, August 6, 1819. The article in the Essex Register 
contained the substance of Adams's letter of July 21, 1819, to Jefferson, but 
without mention of their names. 

Adams to William Bentley, August 21, 1819, Works, 383-384. 
Bentley had sent Adams a copy of the National Intelligencer of August 
12, 1819, which contained the reply of the Raleigh Register. 



History of the Controversy 13 

Register considered his statement relative to the 
source whence the Mecklenburg resolutions were 
procured sufficient to satisfy the incredulity ex- 
pressed in the newspapers of the country. " We 
trust, therefore," he said, 1 " that the most sceptical 
will no longer entertain a doubt of the authenticity 
of this declaration of independence of Mecklenburg 
county. If further evidence of these facts were 
wanting, it is believed the testimony of one of the 
most respectable inhabitants of this city, who was 
present when the declaration was resolved upon, 
might be added." Colonel William Polk, the wit- 
ness referred to, procured and published the state- 
ments of several men of unimpeachable integrity, 
who testified that they were also present on the 
occasion ; and Nathaniel Macon, who had first 
brought the matter to the attention of the general 
public, collected further testimony, including that of 
Captain James Jack, who said that he carried to the 
Continental Congress a declaration of independ- 
ence adopted in Mecklenburg county in May, 1775.' 
All of these aged men stated that they had been 
present at Charlotte, the county seat of Mecklen- 
burg, and heard a declaration of independence read 
before a large concourse of people ; and while some 
of them could not be precise as to the date, and 
some recollected that Colonel Thomas Polk, not 
Colonel Adam Alexander, issued the order for the 
meeting that adopted the declaration, and that 

1 Raleigh Register ', August 6, 1819. 

* Ibid., August 13, 1819, February II and 18, 1820, and May 26, 1820. 
This testimony was reprinted in a pamphlet in 1822 by Col. William Polk. 



14 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

Ephraim Brevard, not John McKnitt Alexander, 
acted as secretary, they substantiated the main facts 
set forth in the historical note accompanying the 
resolutions in the Raleigh Register of April 30, 1819. 
There was no question in North Carolina about the 
genuineness of the resolutions. Dr. Joseph McKnitt 
Alexander certified them to be a true copy of pa- 
pers left by his father, in whose house the original 
records had been destroyed by fire in 1800, and 
stated that he found it "mentioned on file" that 
a copy had been sent to General William R. Davie. 
Shortly after General Davie's death, in 1820, there 
was found among his papers a mutilated manuscript 
in the handwriting of John McKnitt Alexander 
which contained a part of the narrative and reso- 
lutions published in 1819. 

This overwhelming array of testimony satisfied 
North Carolinians and apparently silenced the in- 
credulous elsewhere. A knowledge of the event 
it was known in 1819 to but few of the readers 
of the leading newspaper of the state spread 
throughout North Carolina and Tennessee, and the 
bold step of the patriots of Mecklenburg gradually 
became a fixed topic for eulogy at 4th of July 
celebrations. 1 Its anniversary was first celebrated 
at Charlotte on May 20, 1825, and a large number 
of Revolutionary worthies attended. 2 

Thus the matter remained until Jefferson's letter 
to Adams, discrediting the authenticity of the docu- 
ment, was published in 1829 in the first edition of 

1 Raleigh Register files. 

*Ibid., March 15, and June 7, 1825. 



History of the Controversy 15 

his Works. The effect was not what it might have 
been had it appeared before the Mecklenburg De- 
claration was so deeply rooted in the minds and 
hearts of the people of all North Carolina. Its 
ill-tempered scepticism and unfortunate manner of 
referring to the North Carolina signers of the De- 
claration of Independence, particularly the term 
"tory" applied to Hooper, lost it much of its force. 
In some quarters it was construed to be an aggres- 
sive and " insulting attack " upon the proudest page 
of the Revolutionary history of North Carolina 
and upon the patriotism of her most honored dead. 1 
But publications made their appearance for the first 
time in North Carolina, it seems, " calling in question 
the authenticity of the document as being neither 
a true paper, nor a paper of a true convention." 2 

To give to the world the " positive and solemn 
proof" that Jefferson demanded, the legislature of 
North Carolina, at its session in 1830-31, appointed 
a committee " to examine, collate, and arrange " all 
documentary evidence that could be obtained. The 
committee affirmed the genuineness and authen- 
ticity of the Mecklenburg resolutions. Its report 
and accompanying documents, comprising the evi- 
dence previously published and additional testi- 
mony, was published in pamphlet form in 1831 by 
Governor Montfort Stokes, under the authority and 
direction of the General Assembly. 3 

1 Joseph Seawell Jones : A Defence of the Revolutionary History of North 
Carolina from the Aspersions of Mr. Jefferson. 1834. Cf. Randall's 
Life of Thomas Jefferson, iii, 573. 

* W. H. Foote : Sketches of North Carolina, 207. 

8 This pamphlet, with the omission of the four last pages, which relate 



16 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

Shortly after the appearance of the " State Pam- 
phlet," as it is commonly called, Peter Force, 
of Washington, in compiling materials for his 
American Archives, discovered in an old English 
periodical, Almoris Remembrancer, a proclamation 
issued by the royal governor, Josiah Martin of 
North Carolina, on August 8, 1775, in which the 
Governor said that he had " seen a most infamous 
publication in the Cape Fear Mercury importing to 
be resolves of a set of people styling themselves a 
committee for the county of Mecklenburg, most 
traitorously declaring the entire dissolution of the 
laws, government, and constitution of this country, 
and setting up a system of rule and regulation re- 
pugnant to the laws and subversive of his majesty's 
government," etc. The publication of the fore- 
going extract from the Governor's proclamation 
was followed in a very few months (in 1833), by 

to the "Cumberland Association," is reprinted in the Appendix. The 
preface, written by David L. Swain at the instance of Governor Montfort 
Stokes, states that Jefferson's letter of July 9, 1819, "was at that time 
published in various newspapers, and has been since given to the world in 
the 4th volume of Mr. Jefferson's Works, page 314". The State Pamphlet 
was published in July, 1831, the first edition of Jefferson's Works in 1829, 
and the second in 1830. Swain was a boy of eighteen in 1819, and probably 
thought that Jefferson's letter was published in that year or thereabouts 
because he knew that it had appeared in the newspapers before 1830 and 
was ignorant of the earlier edition of Jefferson's Works. No notice of it 
has been found in the complete file of the Raleigh Register 1819-1829, in 
the Library of Congress, in broken files of other North Carolina newspapers, 
in the certificates of the aged witnesses who gave their testimony during 
these years, nor in the mass of contemporaneous private letters on the Meck- 
lenburg Declaration which the writer has had access to. The carefully 
prepared sketches of the life of William Hooper that were published in the 
Hillsboro Recorder in the fall of 1822 would certainly have alluded to 
Jefferson's characterization of Hooper as a " tory, " which aroused ereat 



History of the Controversy 17 

the discovery of the original proclamation book of 
Governors Tryon and Martin in the town of New 
Bern by the Rev. Francis L. Hawks. 1 Here seemed 
to be written contemporaneous evidence of the 
authenticity of the Mecklenburg resolutions. But 
many believed that the remarkable coincidence 
between phrases in the Mecklenburg Declaration 
and the Declaration of July 4, 1776, could not have 
been the result of accident, and that although a 
paper might have been drawn up in Mecklenburg 
on the 2Oth of May, 1775, it was not in the words 
of the instrument as it then stood. Professor 
George Tucker took this view of the matter in 
his Life of Thomas Jefferson, published in 1837. 
In a criticism of this work in the New York Re- 
view of March, 1837, Dr. Hawks roughly handled 
the character of Jefferson and charged him with 
plagiarism. 

At this stage of the controversy, when all the 
aged witnesses to the famous meeting in Charlotte 

feeling in 1830, had the Essex Register printed Jefferson's letter against 
the wish of John Adams. The North Carolina Journal said in 1830 : 
"The publication of Mr. Jefferson's letter of the gth July, 1819, to Mr. 
Adams, has caused no little surprise." The article proceeds to defend 
Hooper. The Raleigh Register of September 20, 1830, copied this article 
"for the purpose", the editor said, "of rendering justice to a Patriot 
whose reputation had been assailed, as well as to substantiate the claim of 
North Carolina to the honor of having been the first to ' pledge the lives, 
the fortunes, and the sacred honor,' of her citizens, in the perilous struggle 
for emancipation. When we first cast our eyes over Mr. Jefferson's letter 
in relation to this subject, we were struck with the contemptuous manner 
in which Mr. Hooper's name was mentioned, and intended investigating 
the truth of the insinuations," etc. The article was reprinted in the State 
Pamphlet, pp. 30-32, from the Raleigh Register. 

i D. L. Swain in N. C. Univ. Mag. , May, 1853, and in Cooke's Revolu- 
tionary History of N. C. , 104. 
2 



1 8 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

had passed away, the matter was given an entirely 
new phase by Peter Force's discovery of the pre- 
amble and first four resolutions of a series dated 
Charlotte Town, Mecklenburg county, May 31, 
1 775, in the Massachusetts Spy or American Oracle 
of Liberty of July 12, 1775. Mr. Force published 
these resolutions in the Daily National Intelligencer 
of December 18, 1838, with the following intro- 
ductory remarks 1 : 

The Resolutions of Mecklenburg county, North Carolina, of 
May 20, 1775, . . . have excited more attention the last 
eight years than any other occurrence of the Revolution. The 
authenticity of these resolutions has been questioned, yet 
no others have been produced ; and it could not be denied 
that they, or others of a like character, were passed, . . . 
In the course of my examinations into the popular proceed- 
ings of that period of our history, I have met with another set 
of resolutions adopted by Mecklenburg county in May, 1775, 
which answer very well to the description given by Governor 
Martin. They are expressed in somewhat different terms, and 
are besides of a much wider scope than those heretofore 
published; being in fact a general Declaration of Independence 
of all the Colonies. 

Soon afterwards Mr. Force found the resolutions 
printed in more complete, yet abbreviated form in 
the New York Journal; or \ The General Advertiser 
of June 29, 1 775. 2 After repeated searches made at 
the instance of David L. Swain, president of the 
University of North Carolina, the entire series of 
May 31, 1775, was brought to light in 1847 by Dr. 
Joseph Johnson, of South Carolina. They were 

1 From the file in the New York Public Library. 

9 William Q. Force in the National Republican (Washington, D. C.) 
November 24, 1873. 



History of the Controversy 19 

found in a copy of the South Carolina Gazette; And 
Country Journal Q{ June 13, 1775, preserved in the 
Charleston Library. George Bancroft found another 
copy of the same paper in London a few days 
later, i 

The newly-discovered resolutions, even in the 
condensed form in which they were first found, 
were inaccurately described by Mr. Force, for they 
do not declare absolute independence of Great 
Britain. Some persons regarded them as a declara- 
tion of independence, however, and thought the 
difference of eleven days in the rival declarations 
not worth disputing. Those who had doubted 
the genuineness of the May 2Oth resolutions and 
many others outside of North Carolina, concluded 
with Mr. Force that the paper of the 3ist was 
the " Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence " 
which the aged men who gave their testimony 
between 1819 and 1830 had in mind. Their posi- 
tion was fortified by a certificate, dated September 
3, 1800, appended by John McKnitt Alexander to 
the copy of the May 2Oth resolutions that he gave 
to Gen. W. R. Davie, from which it was learned 
that those resolutions were written from memory, 
after the destruction of the records in Alexander's 
house in April, 1800. Although this copy was 
found soon after General Davie's death in 1820, 
the certificate remained unknown to the general 
public until the Rev. Charles Phillips borrowed the 

1 Copy of a letter of D. L. Swain to B. J. Lossing, December 20, 1851, 
in the Bancroft MSS. t N. Y. Pub. Lib. Cf. Historical Mag., December, 
1867. 



20 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

original Davie paper from Governor Swain and 
published the certificate in the North Carolina 
University Magazine of May, 1853. But the claims 
of Mecklenburg were upheld by many able writers, 
including such excellent historians as Irving, Hil- 
dreth, and Charles Francis Adams. For a number 
of years, however, the certificate to the Davie 
paper was ignored in North Carolina. 

It was contended that Alexander said more than 
once that the Davie copy was substantially correct, 
and that the aged witnesses, without an exception, 
believed it to be correct, or stated positively that 
the paper they remembered was a declaration 
of independence. Dr. Francis L. Hawks testified 
from his personal communications with Frangois- 
Xavier Martin that the resolutions of May 2Oth 
which appear in Martin's History of North Carolina, 
published in 1829, and which agree substantially 
with those in the Davie copy, were obtained by 
Martin before 1800, the year in which the Davie 
copy was written. 1 It is claimed that Martin 
copied them from the Cape Fear Mercury, to 
which newspaper the royal governor referred 
in his proclamation and dispatches to England. 

The advocates of the Mecklenburg Declaration 
now argue that the so-called May 3ist Resolves 
were never adopted in the form in which they were 
published in the contemporaneous Charleston news- 

1 The Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, a lecture by Rev. Francis 
L. Hawks, D.D. LL.D., delivered before the New York Historical Society, 
December 16, 1852, in Cooke's Revolutionary History of N. C., 62. (Cited 
hereafter as Dr. Hawks'* Lecture, Cooke.) 



History of the Controversy 21 

paper, but amended on the 2Oth of May into a 
declaration of independence. 1 



1 This hypothesis was first advanced, we believe, by Dr. George W. 
Graham, in an address published in 1895 under the title of Why North 
Carolinians Believe in the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, and 
was elaborated by him in his latest work, The Mecklenburg Declaration of 
Independence^ May 20, /7J15", and the lives of its signers, (1905). 



CHAPTER II 

THE TRUE "DECLARATION" 

THE Mecklenburg resolves of May 31, 1775, 
appeared in the South- Carolina Gazette; And 
Country Journal of Tuesday, June 13, 1775, 
published in " Charles-Town," South Carolina, as 
follows 1 : 

Charlotte-Town, Mecklenburg County, May 31, 1775. 

This day the Committee of this county met, and passed the 
following Resolves : 

WHEREAS by an Address presented to his Majesty by 
both Houses of Parliament, in February last, the American 
colonies are declared to be in a state of actual rebellion, 
we conceive, that all laws and commissions confirmed by, or 
derived from the authority of the King or Parliament, are an- 
nulled and vacated, and the former civil constitution of these 
colonies, for the present, wholly suspended. To provide, in 
some degree, for the exigencies of this county, in the present 
alarming period, we deem it proper and necessary to pass 
the following Resolves, viz. 

I. That all commissions, civil and military, heretofore 

1 From a photographic facsimile of the original newspaper in the 
Charleston Library. One of these facsimiles is in the Emmet Collection, 
New York Public Library. The imprint of the newspaper is, " Charies- 
Town : Printed by Charles Crouch, on the Bay, the Corner of Elliott- 
Street." No. 498. 

22 



The True " Declaration " 23 

granted by the Crown, to be exercised in these colonies, are 
null and void, and the constitution of each particular colony 
wholly suspended. 

II. That the Provincial Congress of each province, under 
the direction of the great Continental Congress, is invested 
with all legislative and executive powers within their respec- 
tive provinces ; and that no other legislative or executive 
power, does, or can exist, at this time, in any of these colonies. 

III. As all former laws are now suspended in this province, 
and the Congress have not yet provided others, we judge it 
necessary, for better preservation of good order, to form cer- 
tain rules and regulations for the internal government of this 
county, until laws shall be provided for us by the Congress. 

IV. That the inhabitants of this county do meet on a cer- 
tain day appointed by this Committee, and having formed 
themselves into nine companies, (to wit) eight in the county, 
and one in the town of Charlotte, do chusea Colonel and 
other military officers, who shall hold and exercise their 
several powers by virtue of this choice, and independent 
of the Crown of Great-Britain, and former constitution of 
this province. 

V. That for the better preservation of the peace and ad- 
ministration of justice, each of those companies do chuse from 
their own body, two discreet freeholders, who shall be em- 
powered, each by himself and singly, to decide and determine 
all matters of controversy, arising within said company, under 
the sum of twenty shillings ; and jointly and together, all 
controversies under the sum of forty shillings ; yet so as that 
their decisions may admit of appeal to the Convention of the 
Select-Men of the county ; and also that any one of these men, 
shall have power to examine and commit to confinement per- 
sons accused of pettit larceny. 

VI. That those two Select-Men, thus chosen, do jointly 
and together chuse from the body of their particular company, 
two persons properly qualified to act as Constables, who may 
assist them in the execution of their office. 

VII. That upon the complaint of any persons to either of 
these Select-Men, he do issue his warrant, directed to the 



24 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

Constable, commanding him to bring the aggressor before him 
or them, to answer said complaint. 

VIII. That these eighteen Select-Men, thus appointed, do 
meet every third Thursday in January, April, July, and Octo- 
ber, at the Court-House, in Charlotte, to hear and determine 
all matters of controversy, for sums exceeding forty shillings, 
also appeals ; and in cases of felony, to commit the person or 
persons convicted thereof to close confinement, until the Pro- 
vincial Congress shall provide and establish laws and modes 
of proceeding in all such cases. 

IX. That these eighteen Select-Men, thus convened, do 
chuse a Clerk, to record the transactions of said Convention, 
and that said clerk, upon the application of any person or per- 
sons aggrieved, do issue his warrant to one of the Constables 
of the company to which the offender belongs, directing said 
Constable to summons and warn said offender to appear before 
the Convention, at their next sitting, to answer the aforesaid 
complaint. 

X. That any person making complaint upon oath, to the 
Clerk, or any member of the Convention, that he has reason to 
suspect, that any person or persons indebted to him, in a sum 
above forty shillings, intend clandestinely to withdraw from the 
county, without paying such debt, the Clerk or such member 
shall issue his warrant to the Constable, commanding him to 
take said person or persons into safe custody, until the next 
sitting of the Convention. 

XI. That when a debtor for a sum below forty shillings 
shall abscond and leave the county, the warrant granted as 
aforesaid, shall extend to any goods or chattels of said debtor, 
as may be found, and such goods or chattels be seized and held 
in custody by the Constable, for the space of thirty days ; in 
which time, if the debtor fail to return and discharge the debt, 
the Constable shall return the warrant to one of the Select- 
Men of the company, where the goods are found, who, 
shall issue orders to the Constable to sell such a part of said 
goods, as shall amount to the sum due : That when the debt 
exceeds forty shillings, the return shall be made to the Con- 
vention, who shall issue orders for sale. 



The True " Declaration" 25 

XII. That all receivers and collectors of quit-rents, public 
and county taxes, do pay the same into the hands of the 
chairman of this Committee, to be by them disbursed as the 
public exigencies may require ; and that such receivers and 
collectors proceed no further in their office, until they be 
approved of by, and have given to, this Committee, good and 
sufficient security, for a faithful return of such monies when 
collected. 

XIII. That the Committee be accountable to the county 
for the application of all monies received from such public 
officers. 

XIV. That all these officers hold their commissions during 
the pleasure of their several constituents. 

XV. That this Committee will sustain all damages that 
ever hereafter may accrue to all or any of these officers thus 
appointed, and thus acting, on account of their obedience and 
conformity to these Resolves. 

XVI. That whatever person shall hereafter receive a com- 
mission from the Crown, or attempt to exercise any such 
commission heretofore received, shall be deemed an enemy to 
his country, and upon information being made to the Captain 
of the company in which he resides, the said company shall 
cause him to be apprehended, and conveyed before the two 
Select-Men of the said company, who, upon proof of the fact, 
shall commit him, the said offender, to safe custody, until the 
next sitting of the Committee, who shall deal with him as 
prudence may direct. 

XVII. That any person refusing to yield obedience to the 
above Resolves, shall be considered equally criminal, and 
liable to the same punishment, as the offenders above last 
mentioned. 

XVIII. That these Resolves be in full force and virtue, 
until instructions from the Provincial Congress, regulating the 
jurisprudence of the province, shall provide otherwise, or the 
legislative body of Great-Britain, resign its unjust and arbitrary 
pretentions with respect to America. 

XIX. That the eight militia companies in the county, pro- 
vide themselves with proper arms and accoutrements, and 



26 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

hold themselves in readiness to execute the commands and 
directions of the General Congress of this province and this 
Committee. 

XX. That the Committee appoint Colonel Thomas Polk, 
and Doctor Joseph Kenedy, to purchase 300 Ib. of powder, 
600 Ib. of lead, 1000 flints, for the use of the militia of this 
county, and deposit the same in such place as the Committee 
may hereafter direct. 

Signed by order of the Committee^ 

EPH. BREVARD, Clerk of the Committee. 

The fact that these resolves were adopted in 
Mecklenburg County in May, 1775, which is the 
foundation of the argument against the alleged 
declaration of independence of the twentieth of 
the same month, has been denied by those who 
find them more or less incompatible with the de- 
claration which they uphold, on the ground that it 
rests solely on the authority of a Charleston news- 
paper, and that, although the editor was a Tory, he 
printed them without remark, thereby showing that 
he was unwilling to vouch for their having been 
adopted on the date and in the form published. 1 
This contention arises partly from a lack of in- 
formation concerning Charleston printers and Amer- 
ican newspapers of 1775. The South-Carolina Ga- 
zette; And Country Journal, which printed the 
Mecklenburg resolves, was conducted by Charles 
Crouch, a sound Whig, and the one other Charleston 
newspaper published in June, 1775, also supported 
the cause of the colonies. 2 One who searches the 

1 Geo. W. Graham: The Mecklenburg Declaration, pp. 43-44, 52. Cf. 
Gov. Graham's Address, pp. 83-86. 

Isaiah Thomas: History of Printing, ii., pp. 157-169, 366, 371, and 
private information from Mr. A. S. Salley, Jr., Sec. Historical Commission 



The True ' ' Declaration " 27 

newspaper files of that period will turn many a 
page to find a word of comment accompanying any 
public document printed therein. In some of these 
no editorial matter whatever was printed. 

But another contemporary newspaper has been 
brought to light which confirms the genuineness 
and authenticity of the Mecklenburg resolves of 
May 31, 1775. On Friday, June 16, 1775, three 
days after the resolves were published in Charles- 
ton, they appeared in the North-Carolina Gazette? 
printed weekly at New-Bern, two hundred miles 
away. With the exception of a few words, mostly 
misprinted, no doubt, the two series of resolves 
and their headings are identical in form. The 
dates of the publication of the resolves in Charles- 
ton and New-Bern, which are nearly equidistant 
from Charlotte, being about two hundred miles 
from that town, precisely fit the situation in point 
of time, and indicate that they were dispatched from 
Charlotte by the committee that adopted them. It 
is incredible that both messengers should have been 
so deceived as to make their arduous journeys of 
two hundred miles on horseback to have published 
in Charleston and New-Bern a series of resolves 
that were adopted eleven days before their ac- 
credited date, as some would have us believe, in a 

of South Carolina. The Mecklenburg resolves have often been erroneously 
credited to the South-Carolina Gazette ', a third Charleston newspaper of the 
period. It was conducted by Peter Timothy, a patriot of patriots, and its 
publication was suspended from April until September, 1775. 

1 The resolves in the North-Carolina Gazette are reprinted in the 
Appendix. 



28 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

form so different as to change their whole tenor 
and import, although the date and nature of the 
true resolves were known, according to the testi- 
mony of all witnesses, to nearly every man in 
Mecklenburg County. Other evidence will be ad- 
duced which confirms the form and date of the 
resolves published in the Charleston and New-Bern 
newspapers. 

It will be observed that the Mecklenburg resolves 
of May 31, 1775, constitute a virtual declaration of 
independence. They declare that all civil and mili- 
tary commissions granted by the crown are null and 
void, and the constitution of each colony wholly sus- 
pended ; that legislative and executive powers are 
vested solely in the Provincial Congress of each col- 
ony ; that the people of Mecklenburg should there- 
fore form certain regulations for the government of 
the county ; that county military officers, when 
chosen by the people, shall exercise their powers by 
virtue of such popular choice, and " independent of 
the Crown of Great Britain and former constitution 
of this province"; that a body of select-men having 
administrative and judicial powers, called a conven- 
tion or committee, shall be elected by the people ; 
that any person thereafter attempting to exercise a 
commission from the crown shall be " deemed an 
enemy to his country ", committed to custody, and 
dealt with as prudence may direct ; that all who re- 
fuse obedience to these resolves shall be considered 
equally criminal ; and that these resolves shall be 
" in full force and virtue until instructions from the 
Provincial Congress regulating the jurisprudence 






The True " Declaration " 29 






of the province shall provide otherwise, or the legis- 
lative body of Great-Britain resign its unjust and 
arbitrary pretent ions with respect to America" 

By declaring British authority and British forms 
of government to be wholly suspended in all the 
colonies and all legislative and executive powers to 
be vested in the Provincial Congresses, the people 
of Mecklenburg took a more advanced step in the 
direction of independence than any other organized 
body of their compatriots had taken. British rule 
was regarded as suspended, not annihilated, and the 
resolves were defeasible by a change in the attitude 
of the British Government; but the document might 
easily be mistaken for a declaration of independence. 
It has been repeatedly called such by intelligent 
critics of our own day. In effect, Mecklenburg 
County declared independence subject to a contin- 
gent limitation. The significance of this limitation 
might have been overlooked by many persons in 

1775, and the limitation itself entirely forgotten in 
later years. Since it so happened that there was 
no occasion to think of the defeasibility of the re- 
solves in virtue of the contingency, and Mecklenburg 
County was never afterwards under British rule, 
how, in years after the great Declaration of July 4, 

1776, would men of Mecklenburg have been likely 
to recall their precursive step, when the precise 
terms of the instrument by which they had renounced 
British authority, and which are so essential in de- 
termining its import, had passed out of their minds ? 
If we conclude that many persons who were present 
at a meeting in Charlotte in May, 1775, who saw and 



30 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

heard what transpired, and testified positively years 
afterwards that the paper then adopted was a declar- 
ation of independence, could not have been mis- 
taken as to that fact, then we are confronted by two 
sets of resolves which wrought a fundamental change 
in the civil government of Mecklenburg County 
in May, 1775, one of which was entirely forgot- 
ten by all who remembered the other. 

The paper of May 31, 1775, it should be borne in 
mind, was not rescued from oblivion until after all the 
survivors who said they had been present in Char- 
lotte when a declaration of independence was made 
had passed away; while that of May 20, 1775, 
which they were called upon to verify after a lapse 
of half a century, was pointed out to them as a re- 
production of an original record. Not until the 
publication in 1853 of the certificate appended by 
John McKnitt Alexander to a copy of the latter 
paper that he gave to General William R. Davie, 
did the general public learn that it was written from 
memory in 1800, shortly after the destruction of the 
records in Alexander's house. 

Reserving for critical analysis the document al- 
leged to have been adopted on May 20, 1 775, the re- 
collections of the aged witnesses concerning the 
terms of the document which they understood to be 
a declaration of independence, and all other eviden- 
ces of a later date than 1776, we shall consider (i) 
the documents of May 20, and May 31,1775, in their 
relation to each other, assuming that both were 
adopted, and in their relation to the most significant 
facts and circumstances associated with the docu- 



The True ' Declaration " 31 

ment which all the witnesses and participants at 
the famous meeting had in mind, viewed in the 
light of contemporaneous testimony; (2) contempo- 
raneous evidence of either document ; and (3) the 
subsequent conduct of reputed authors and sup- 
porters of the alleged declaration of independence. 



CHAPTER III 

THE RIVAL DECLARATIONS COMPARED 

THE analogous Mecklenburg manifestoes of 
May, 1775, if that of May 2Oth be authentic, were 
issued by the same representative body, known 
as the Committee of the County of Mecklenburg. 
The May 3ist resolves were published in con- 
temporary newspapers as resolves of this body. 
The historical note accompanying the document 
found among John McKnitt Alexander'spapers, and 
published in the Raleigh Register in 1819, states that 
it was adopted by a " delegation," or convention of 
" delegates," composed of two persons chosen from 
each militia company in Mecklenburg County ; but 
in his original draft of this narrative, written in 
i8oo y John McKnitt Alexander invariably refers 
to the same body as a " Committee" and to its mem- 
bers as " Committee Men" 1 These and other dis- 
crepancies indicate that the first draft of the his- 
torical statement, which will be examined later, was 
revised at the instance of John McKnitt Alexander 
by another person. 

1 Post, Chap. IX. 
32 



The Rival Declarations Compared 33 

Several Mecklenburg fathers who were called 
upon to substantiate the facts set forth in the 
Alexander narrative used the terms " delegation " 
and "delegate"; others said that the body which 
declared independence was a " Committee." These 
witnesses tell substantially the same story, and all 
clearly had in mind the same meeting. General 
Joseph Graham, one of the most intelligent of 
their number, wrote in 1830 : " During the Winter 
and Spring preceding the event, several popular 
meetings of the -people were held in Charlotte, 
two of which I attended. . . On the 2Oth of 
May, 1775, besides the two persons elected from 
each militia company, (usually called Committee- 
men), a much larger number of citizens attended in 
Charlotte than at any former meeting perhaps half 
the men in the county." " At the time those resolu- 
tions were adopted," said General Graham in 1835,* 
" there were 13 militia companies in Mecklenburg 
and Cabarrus [then a part of Mecklenburg] Coun- 
ties ; the practice was, at company muster, each 
company elected two of their number as committee- 
men, usually those for whom they had the most 
confidence in for intelligence. As well as I can 
remember, it was first practiced in the Autumn of 
the year 1774, and had several meetings in the 
Winter and Spring preceding the meeting of May, 
1775. The Committee were continued for 15 years 

i Address of General Graham at Charlotte, May 20, 1835, on the occasion 
of the celebration of the anniversary of the Mecklenburg Declaration, in the 
North Carolina Booklet for January, 1906, copied from the Western Caro- 
linian (Salisbury, N. C.), June 20, 1835. 

3 



34 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

after. What time they ceased is unknown to me.*' 
The Alexander narrative also refers to earlier 
meetings mentioned by General Graham, and to 
" the continued exertion of said delegation." 

Committees, now usually called Committees of 
Safety, were established in the counties and princi- 
pal towns of North Carolina in accordance with 
the articles of American Association, adopted by 
the Continental Congress in October, 1774.* The 
Provincial Convention of August, 1774, recom- 
mended that committees of five persons be chosen 
in each county, 2 but of the few counties which 
acted upon the recommendation, none, so far as is 
known, restricted membership to five persons, and 
several, if not all, were reorganized after the receipt 
of the advice of the Continental Congress two 
months later. The records of some of these 
committees show a much larger membership 
than the Mecklenburg committee of May, 1775. 
According to the combined recollections of men 
who were present at the meeting which is 
alleged to have issued a declaration of indepen- 
dence, the Mecklenburg committee had about 
thirty members twenty-six, if the number of 
militia companies given by General Graham be 
correct. All of the witnesses agree that it con- 
sisted of two persons elected from each militia 
company. Rowan County, then adjacent to Meck- 
lenburg, furnishes one of the earliest instances 
of an election of committeemen from the county 

1 Colonial Records of North Carolina, ix. and n., passim. 
* Ibid., ix., 1047. 



The Rival Declarations Compared 35 

militia companies. New elections of committees 
were frequent in all counties. On February 8, 
1775, the Rowan committee, which was established 
in the autumn of 1774, resolved, "That it be 
recommended to the Inhabitants of Rowan County 
that the several Militia Companies meet together, 
and each choose a Committee Man, which Com- 
mittee so chosen shall meet at Salisbury the first 

of March particularly that the said 

Committee make such Resolves or adopt such 
Measures as may enforce the observation of the 
Resolves of the General Congress and most effect- 
ually secure to America her natural and political 
privileges." 1 This resembles the order for the 
election and meeting in Mecklenburg referred to 
in the Alexander narrative. The inference, then, 
to be drawn from contemporaneous records, and 
the direct statements of John McKnitt Alexander 
and other witnesses in later years, prove that a 
committee was organized in Mecklenburg County 
in the fall of 1774, that a new committee was 
elected in May, 1775 and that this body was the 
" delegation " which met in the same month and 
adopted the resolves which were understood to be 
a declaration of independence. 

We have now to deal with two sets of resolutions 
adopted by the Mecklenburg committee at meet- 



1 Colonial Records of North Carolina, x. , 83-84. The proceedings of 
the Rowan Committee are erroneously dated July 8, 1775, for they refer to 
the meeting of the Continental Congress on May 10, 1775, as a future 
event. In his History of North Carolina, p. 363, John H. Wheeler, copy- 
ing from the original records, dates them February 8, 1775. 



36 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

ings held in May, 1 775, the one a formal declaration 
of independence, made on the 2Oth of the month, 
the other, decidedly independent in spirit, adopted 
on the 3 1 st. Both declare the political status of 
the people of Mecklenburg County, and both provide 
a system of county government. Until very recent- 
ly, it has been held that the paper of May 3ist fol- 
lowed as an appropriate consequence of a dissolution 
of all political connection with Great Britain by the 
declaration of the 2oth : it was said to be " an au- 
thentic document, founded on that declaration, and 
meant to carry its principles into action." 1 The 
intrinsic evidence of the document of May 31, 1775, 
shows that it had no relation to an antecedent decla- 
ration of independence. It contains not a hint of 
the declaration which is presumed to have been its 
foundation, but proceeds on the assumption, ex- 
pressly stated in the preamble, that British author- 
ity was suspended, not by the men of Mecklenburg, 
but by a declaration of Parliament that the colonies 
were in actual rebellion. If the document of May 
2Oth be genuine, then a representative body assem- 
bled in Charlotte on May igth, vested with unlimited 
authority, adopted certain measures after a public 
discussion and two days sitting, which were unani- 
mously approved by a vast concourse of people, and 
met again eleven days later to do it all over again 
in a milder way. On the 2oth of May the com- 
mitteemen declared the people of Mecklenburg to 
be free and independent of Great Britain, adopted 

1 Dr. Hawks' s Lecture, Cooke's Retfy Hist, of N. C., 77; Gov. Graham's 
Address, 8l et seq. 



The Rival Declarations Compared 37 

all their former laws, reinstated in their commands 
military officers who conformed to the new " regula- 
tions," as they were called, and assumed to them- 
selves, in the character of justices of the peace and 
committeemen, all judicial and administrative au- 
thority. " A number of bye-laws were also added," 
says the Alexander narrative, " merely to protect the 
association from confusion, and to regulate their 
general conduct as citizens," " bye-laws and regula- 
tions for the government of a standing Committee 
of Public Safety," wrote Humphrey Hunter, who 
was present. The county government thus pro- 
vided for was to continue in operation, " until a 
more general and organized government be estab- 
lished in this province." On May 3ist the com- 
mitteemen met again and abrogated British laws 
which had been eleven days abrogated and adopted 
as a " rule of life " for the people of independent 
Mecklenburg County; vacated offices held under the 
crown which had been eleven days vacated and 
partly or wholly filled by new appointments ; de- 
prived of their commands the military officers rein- 
stated on the 2oth by ordering an election of new 
ones by popular vote ; and legislated themselves out 
of office by resolving that civil officers should be 
elected to perform the identical duties which they 
had imposed upon themselves eleven days earlier! 
"A number of bye-laws were added, merely to pro- 
tect the association from confusion, and to regulate 
their general conduct as citizens." No reasons for 
this anomalous second action are given. No al- 
lusion is made to the previous action. To com- 



38 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

plete the work of undoing and doing again in a 
milder way all that had been done on the 2Oth, 
which had met with universal satisfaction, and which 
was now ignored, the committeemen of the 3ist 
annulled their declaration of independence : they 
now declared that the constitution of the province 
was only suspended, and that the new order of 
things should continue " until instructions from the 
Provincial Congress regulating the jurisprudence of 
this province shall provide otherwise, or the legis- 
lative body of Great Britain resign its unjust and 
arbitrary preventions with respect to A merica" Can 
it be believed that half the men of Mecklenburg 
County acclaimed with shouts of joy an irrevocable 
declaration of independence, saw their representa- 
tives pledge their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor 
to maintain it, and permitted the same men to as- 
semble on the same spot eleven days later to recant 
their bold words ? 

Few attempts have been made to explain away 
the fact that the document of May 2oth is con- 
tradicted by and inconsistent with the document of 
May 3 1 st. Only one need be noticed. It has 
been suggested that the patriots of Mecklenburg 
were precipitated by the news of the battle of 
Lexington into an act which on cooler reflection 
they recognized to be premature and damaging 
to the cause of the colonies ; that they mag- 
nanimously met eleven days later and adopted 
another series of resolutions pitched in a lower 
key, which were hurried into print, and that meas- 
ures were taken in Mecklenburg and in other parts 



The Rival Declarations Compared 39 

of the province to suppress the declaration of in. 
dependence. 1 This hypothesis is rebutted by the 
very men whose testimony is mainly relied upon to 
support that declaration. They point with pride to 
the fact that the resolutions they remembered were 
sustained with firmness and energy, and that the 
" harmony, unanimity, and exertion in the cause of 
liberty and independence, evidently resulting from 
these regulations, and the continued exertion of 
said delegation, apparently tranquilised this sec- 
tion of the State, and met with the concurrence 
and high approbation of the Council of Safety, 
who held their sessions at Newbern and Wil- 
mington. ..." Captain James Jack, who tells us 
that he bore the resolutions to Philadelphia to lay 
them before the Continental Congress, vividly re- 
collected how they were read in open court when 
he passed through Salisbury, in the adjoining 
county of Rowan, and approved by all. Captain 
Jack is known to have left Charlotte after May 31, 
1775. Not one of the fourteen who said that 
they were present in Charlotte in May, 1775, or 
thereabouts, when independence was declared, re- 
called that two series of resolves were adopted in 
that month which overturned the civil government 
of Mecklenburg County, or intimated that the 
declaration of independence was suppressed in 
Mecklenburg or elsewhere in North Carolina. 

The intrinsic evidence of the rival declarations, 
strengthened by the fact that the witnesses remem- 

1 New York Herald, May 3, 1875, editorial. Cf. Dr. Hawks' s Lecture^ 
Cooke, 91, and Gov. Graham's Address, 83-84. 



40 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

bered only one such document, which was not 
suppressed or superseded, is strongly against the 
theory that both were adopted. Their similarity 
indicates that one is the basis of the other. The 
advocates of the document of May 20, 1775, re- 
cently saw that their only logical position was to 
deny that the May 3ist resolves were adopted on 
the date and in the form published in the South- 
Carolina Gazette; And Country Journal of June 
13, 1775, and to argue that they were drawn up 
before the receipt of the news of Lexington, and 
amended on the 2Oth into a declaration of inde- 
pendence. This position has been rendered un- 
tenable by the discovery of a copy of the North- 
Carolina Gazette of June 16, 1775, containing the 
same resolves under the same date as were printed 
in the Charleston newspaper. But we have not to 
rely wholly upon newspapers for contemporary 
proofs that the May 3ist resolves were adopted. 



CHAPTER IV 

THE LOST " CAPE-FEAR MERCURY " 

THE men who attended a meeting of the Meck- 
lenburg committee in May, 1775, and testified in 
later years that a declaration of independence was 
adopted, state that it was read by Colonel Thomas 
Polk from the steps of the court-house in Charlotte 
before " perhaps half the men in the county," or 
" the males generally." Four said that " the reso- 
lutions had considerable effect in harmonizing the 
people in two or three adjoining counties." We 
have seen that none intimated that they were sup- 
pressed in any part of the province of North 
Carolina, and that Captain James Jack stated that 
they were read aloud in open court at Salisbury, 
which is forty miles distant from Charlotte, early 
in June, 1775. Assuming that they were sup- 
pressed, can it be believed that nobody in Meck- 
lenburg or Rowan County could have been im- 
prudent enough to spread the startling news 
that the inhabitants of Mecklenburg had formally 
declared, at a large public meeting, that they were 
free and independent of Great Britain ? And did 

41 



42 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

Whigs and Tories conspire to keep it secret ? One 
who was present in Salisbury states that the news 
brought by Captain Jack caused a great stir among 
the Tories of the town, and that their leaders tried 
to prevent Jack from proceeding to Philadelphia. 1 
The Tories of Mecklenburg would have hurried to 
the British authorities in spite of efforts to suppress 
it, and the declaration of independence would soon 
have been known and discussed in all parts of the 
colony. Notwithstanding this fact, a search ex- 
tending over a period of nearly a century, begun 
at a time when a great mass of contemporary 
records now lost were extant, has produced but 
one item of contemporary evidence which the ad- 
vocates of the document of May 20, 1775, rely 
upon to prove its authenticity. The document is 
alleged to have been printed in the Cape-Fear 
Mercury, a newspaper printed in Wilmington, 
North Carolina ; for Governor Josiah Martin's de- 
scriptions of a manifesto of Mecklenburg County 
contained in a copy of this newspaper which he 
sent to England and which disappeared from the 
British State Paper Office in 1837 under circum- 
stances which indicate, it is said, that it contained 
the document of May 2Oth apply to nothing less 
than a declaration of independence. A plausible 
argument has been advanced to prove that the 
resolutions of May 2oth in Martin's History of 

i MS. of Adam Brevard, brother of Ephraim Brevard, dated July 13, 
1824, copied into Wheeler's Reminiscences and Memoirs of North Caro- 
lina, 241-243, from the Southern Home for July 5, 1875. Cf. Gen. Jos. 
Graham's testimony. 



The Lost " Cape-Fear Mercury" 43 

North Carolina were copied from the Cape-Fear 
Mercury}- In treating the testimony of Governor 
Martin, we fortunately have access to all of his 
correspondence with the home government, his 
proclamations, and the records of his Council. 

During the last week in May, 1775, Governor 
Martin was compelled by fear of personal violence 
to flee from his palace at New- Bern, the seat of 
government, and to take refuge at Fort Johnston, 
at the mouth of the Cape Fear River, about thirty 
miles below Wilmington. Here he was soon cut 
off to a great extent from communication with 
loyalists in the interior of the province by the 
vigilance of the town and county committees. 
The earliest mention of this fact in the Governor's 
correspondence is contained in a letter of July 6, 
1775, to the Earl of Dartmouth, the British Sec- 
retary for the Colonies, in which he said that a 
servant whom he had dispatched to the post-office 
at Wilmington for his letters three days before was 
stopped by the committee of the town of Bruns- 
wick and obliged to swear that he had no letters 
for him before he was allowed to proceed. 2 But 
Governor Martin had a large following in the pro- 
vince, particularly in the upper and middle Cape 
Fear regions, and it would have been physically 
impossible for the patriot party to prevent the 
news of a declaration of independence publicly 
proclaimed in Mecklenburg County from reaching 

1 George W. Graham: The Mecklenburg Declaration. 
9 Col. Rec. ofN. C., x., 43~44, 69. 






44 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

him. 1 Wilmington was the principal trading town 
of the province, the stronghold of the Whig party 
in the populous Cape Fear section, famous for its 
early and active support of the cause of the country, 
and the home of many of the most influential Whigs 
of North Carolina, such as Cornelius Harnett, 
whom Josiah Quincy called "the Samuel Adams 
of North Carolina," the Ashes, William Hooper, 
Archibald MacLaine, and others ; but there was a 
large body of Tories in the town, 2 and had it been 
known there that Mecklenburg County declared in- 
dependence, oral intelligence, if not the declaration 
itself, would have quickly reached Governor Martin. 
A proclamation issued by Governor Martin from 
Fort Johnston on June 16, I775, 3 nearly a month 
after the alleged promulgation of the Mecklenburg 
Declaration, shows that he had not heard of it at 
that late date. His thunderbolts were directed 
against "sundry ill-disposed persons," particularly 
in the county of Brunswick, who were endeavoring 
by " false, seditious, and scandalous reports " "to 
engage the People to subscribe papers obliging 
themselves to be prepared with Arms, to array 
themselves in companies, and to submit to the 
illegal and usurped authorities of Committees, cover- 
ing their flagitious and abominable designs with 
pretended apprehensions of intestine insurrections 
and professions of duty and allegiance to the King, 

1 Wm. E. Dodd : Life of Nathaniel Macon, 19-21 ; Sabine's Loyalists 
of the American Revolution , i., 36. Sabine holds that the loyalist party in 
North Carolina was as numerous as the Whigs. 

* Col Rec. ofN. C 1 ., x., 48. Ibid., x., 16-19. 



The Lost " Cape-Fear Mercury " 45 

in order the more effectually to deceive and betray 
the innocent and unwary people into the most 
flagrant violations thereof." It is clear that Gov- 
ernor Martin knew nothing of a declaration of inde- 
pendence emanating from Mecklenburg County ; 
nor had he seen the May 3ist resolves, for they 
contain no professions of duty to the king and 
only a tacit acknowledgement of allegiance. The 
May 3 ist resolves were first published in North Car- 
olina on June i6th, the day on which this proclama- 
tion was issued. They appeared in the North Caro- 
lina Gazette, of New-Bern, on that day. New-Bern 
was about a hundred miles from Fort Johnston ; 
Governor Martin had few sympathizers there, 1 and 
advices from them were no doubt very infrequent. 
Before proceeding to Governor Martin's refer- 
ences to an extraordinary publication of Meck- 
lenburg County, an event will be noticed which 
should be considered in connection with them, and 
which reveals at the same time the political senti- 
ments of the Whig leaders of North Carolina at 
this moment and their ignorance of the supposed 
declaration of independence. On June 20, 1775, 
four days after the date of the governor's pro- 
clamation, a general meeting of the committees of 
the Wilmington district was held in the town of 
Wilmington. 2 This body adopted the " Associa- 
tion" agreed to by the committee of New Hanover 
County on June iQth, which, with some textual 
changes, was the same as that agreed to at Charles- 

1 Col. Rec. of N. C., x., 43. 

x., 24-29 ; proceedings of the meeting. 



46 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

ton on June 3d, in the Provincial Congress of South 
Carolina. The Association was drawn up after the 
receipt of the news of Lexington, and was the 
boldest document other than the Mecklenburg 
resolves of May 31, 1775, that had been put for- 
ward up to that time in the Carolinas. It is best 
known as the " Cumberland Association," having 
been later adopted by the committee for the county 
of Cumberland. Its subscribers solemnly engaged 
to associate as a band for the defence of their rights, 
and to go forth and be ready to sacrifice their 
lives and fortunes at the call of the Provincial or 
Continental Congresses ; " This obligation", it ran, 
" to continue in full force until a reconciliation 
shall take place between Great Britain and America^ 
upon constitutional principles, an event we most 
ardently desire, and we will hold those persons 
inimical to the liberties of the Colonies who shall 
refuse to subscribe this Association." Though driven 
to arms in defence of their constitutional rights, inde- 
pendence was not the aim nor the wish of the in- 
habitants of the Wilmington district, nor, as far as 
contemporaneous records show, of any organised 
body of men in America at this time. The same 
meeting that adopted the Association appointed 
Robert Howe, Archibald MacLaine, and Samuel 
Ashe, three of the most able and active patriots in the 
colony, to draw up a reply to the Governor's procla- 
mation of the 1 6th of June. They reported a 
document which stated that unconstitutional and 
oppressive acts of Parliament had laid the people of 
the colony under the necessity of appointing Com- 



The Lost " Cape-Fear Mercury " 47 

mittees for the several districts, towns, and counties, 
and that " as his Excellency has endeavored by his 
Proclamation to weaken the influence and prejudice 
the characters of those Committees and the persons 
appointed under them by wantonly, cruelly, and 
unjustly representing them as ill-disposed people, 
propagating false and scandalous reports, deroga- 
tory to the honor and justice of the King, and also 
by other illiberal and scandalous imputations ex- 
pressed in the said Proclamation : We, then, the Com- 
mittees of the counties of New Hanover, Brunswick, 
Bladen, Duplin, and Onslow, in order to prevent 
the pernicious influence of the said Proclamation, 
do unanimously resolve that in our opinion his 
Excellency, Josiah Martin, Esq., hath by the said 
Proclamation, and by the whole tenor of his con- 
duct since the unhappy disputes between Great 
Britain and the colonies, discovered himself to be 
an enemy to the happiness of this colony in par- 
ticular and to the freedom, rights, and privileges of 
America in general." It is incredible that the 
authors of this paper, who thus emphatically belie 
the Governor's imputations that the committees 
of the province were acting otherwise than as sub- 
jects of King George III. contending for their 
political rights, and driven to extreme measures, 
could have known that the committee of Meck- 
lenburg County declared independence of Great 
Britain a month before. And yet, if there was 
such a declaration, it would certainly have been 
made known to them and to many others in the 
large district which they represented. 



48 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

Before the meeting at Wilmington adjourned, 
(June 21, 1775), the Association and the reply to 
the Governor's proclamation were ordered to be 
published in the newspapers. They appeared, in 
all probability, in the Cape-Fear Mercury of Friday, 
June 23, 1775. This paper was printed weekly at 
Wilmington under the patronage of the local com- 
mittee by Adam Boyd, one of its members. 1 The 
Cape-Fear Mercury and the North-Carolina Ga- 
zette were the only newspapers published in the 
province. 

By June 25th, the news of both an extraordinary 
publication of Mecklenburg County and of the meet- 
ing at Wilmington had reached Governor Martin. 
He addressed the Council held at Fort Johnston on 
that day as follows : 2 " The seditious Combinations 
that have been formed and are still forming in sev- 
eral parts of this Colony and the violent measures 
they pursue in compelling His Majesty's Subjects 
by various kinds of intimidations to subscribe As- 
sociations inconsistent with their Duty and alle- 
gience to their Sovereign, The obliging People to 
frequent meetings in Arms, by the usurped Author- 
ity of Committees, the recent Assemblage of a Body 
of armed Men in the town of Wilmington for the 
purpose of awing His Majesty's Loyal Subjects there 
into submission to the dictates of an illegal and ty- 
rannical tribunal erected there under that name, 3 and 

1 Stephen B. Weeks : Press of N. C. in the i8th Century, 33. 

a Col Rcc. ofN. C, x., 38-39. 

8 The Governor refers to the general meeting of the committees at Wil- 
mington on June 2Oth and 2ist, and the signing of the Association by the 
inhabitants of the town. See Col. Rec. of N. C. x., 236. 



The Lost " Cape-Fear Mercury" 49 

the late most treasonable publication of a Commit- 
tee in the County of Mecklenburg explicitly re- 
nouncing obedience to His Majesty's Government 
and all lawfull authority whatsoever, are such auda- 
cious and dangerous proceedings, and so directly 
tending to the dissolution of the Constitution of this 
Province, That I have thought it indispensably my 
Duty to advise with you on the measures proper to 
be taken for the maintenance of His Majesty's 
Government and the Constitution of this Country, 
thus flagrantly insulted and violated." Governor 
Martin's description of the publication of the Meck- 
lenburg Committee would apply to a formal decla- 
ration of independence ; yet he puts it in the same 
class with other " seditious " proceedings " directly 
tending to the dissolution of the Constitution of 
this Province," particularly the signing of the new 
Association. 

On June 30, 1775, five days after the meeting 
of the Council, Governor Martin wrote from 
Fort Johnston to the Earl of Dartmouth, the 
British Secretary of State for the American De- 
partment. * " The Resolves of the Committee of 
Mecklenburgh," he said, "which your Lordship will 
find in the enclosed Newspaper, surpass all the hor- 
rid and treasonable publications that the inflamma- 
tory spirits of this Continent have yet produced, and 
your Lordship may depend its Authors and Abettors 
will not escape my due notice whenever my hands 
are sufficiently strengthened to attempt the recov- 
ery of the lost authority of Government. A copy 

1 Col. Rec. of N. C., x, 41-50. 



50 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

of these Resolves I am informed were sent off by 
express to the Congress at Philadelphia as soon as 
they were passed in the Committee." The gover- 
nor refers to only three enclosures in this letter 
a newspaper, his proclamation of June i6th, and 
the minutes of the Council at Fort Johnston on 
June 25th. Of his proclamation he wrote : " The 
Newspaper enclosed will show your Lordship that 
the same spirit of sedition and extravagance that gave 
cause to that Act of Government has produced an 
impudent and formal contradiction of the undeniable 
truths it contains, under the authority of a Com- 
mittee. . . . According to custom and as the last 
resort of malice and falsehood, your Lordship will 
find this Publication prescribes me as an Enemy to 
this Province in particular and to America in Gen- 
eral, . . ." The governor plainly referred to 
the reply made to his proclamation by the general 
committee at Wilmington on June 2ist, which, as 
we have seen, was ordered on that day to be printed 
in the newspapers, and which most probably 
appeared in the Cape-Fear Mercury of June 23d, 
the organ of the Wilmington Committee. 

The original dispatch of Governor Martin of 
June 30, 1775, is in the Public Record Office in 
London, together with the proclamation and min- 
utes of the Council, but the third inclosure, the 
newspaper, is missing. Written across the back of 
the dispatch is this pencilled note : " A Printed 
Paper taken out by Mr. Turner for Mr. Stevenson, 
August 1 5th 1837." Andrew Stevenson, of Virginia, 
was American Minister at the Court of St. James, 



The Lost "Cape-Fear Mercury" 51 

1836-1841. He never took part in the discussion 
of the Mecklenburg Declaration, and, according to 
a memorandum found among his papers after his 
death, the newspaper was borrowed for another 
person. 1 It was removed from the British State 
Paper Office at a time when Jefferson was openly 
charged with plagiarism, and the failure to return it 
has been regarded by the most recent advocates of 
the document of May 20, 1775, as presumptive 
evidence that it contained that document. 2 Had 
the matter rested thus, the Mecklenburg contro- 
versy might have gone on forever. But all of Lord 
Dartmouth's American papers are not on file in the 
Public Record Office, and among his manuscripts 
in the possession of the present Earl of Dartmouth 

1 New York Herald, May 19, 1875, containing Herald correspondent's 
interview with Andrew Stevenson's son, Senator John W. Stevenson. 

2 Dr. Geo. W. Graham devotes several pages of his volume on the Meck- 
lenburg Declaration to the Cape-Fear Mercury episode. He argues that 
Dr. Hawks's article in the New- York Review for March, 1837, in which he 
charged Jefferson with plagiarism, "announced that the Mecklenburg 
Declaration was first published in the Cape-Fear Mercury in June, 1775, 
which paper was still preserved in the Colonial Archives in England " ; 
that Andrew Stevenson, a friend of Jefferson, therefore borrowed the news- 
paper and never returned it j that "Jared Sparks, the historian, visited 
London in search of that copy of the Mercury in 1840-41, and of course 
must have made the acquaintance of Mr. Stevenson " ; and that during the 
twenty years previous to Mr. Stevenson's death in 1857, when the contro- 
versy as to the genuineness of the Mecklenburg Declaration had become 
intensified by Mr. Force's discovery of the May 3ist resolves, "nowhere 
do we find that Mr. Stevenson ever participated in the debate, although, 
with the Cape-Fear Mercury in his possession, he could have settled the 
controversy for all time." In point of fact, Dr. Hawks "announced" in the 
New York Review that " the Mecklenburg document was first published in 
a newspaper of North Carolina, called ' The Cape Fear Mercury,' " and as 
authority for his statement quoted Governor Martin's proclamation of 
August 8, 1775, which had been found and made public several years 



52 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

is a duplicate of Governor Martin's dispatch of 
June 30, 1775, which contains, in place of a news- 
paper, a manuscript copy of the Mecklenburg 
Resolves of May 31, 1775. The duplicate dispatch 
is in the same clerk's or secretary's hand and in the 
same words as the original in the Public Record 
Office, and is signed by the Governor. Both were 
numbered 34 by Governor Martin's secretary. 
The duplicate is indorsed : " North Carolina. Fort 

before. Dr. Hawks knew nothing of any copy of the newspaper in Eng- 
land, or of any correspondence of Governor Martin concerning the Meck- 
lenburg resolves. Jared Sparks was ignorant of it when he went to Europe 
to make transcripts of MSS. relating to America. In a volume in the 
Sparks Collection (Harvard University Library), entitled Selections and 
Memoranda made in the Public Offices of London and Paris and in tJie 
British Museum, 1840-41, there is an extract from Governor Martin's letter 
of June 30, 1775, and the following note by Mr. Sparks. "The news- 
paper referred to above is not among the files in the State Paper 
Office, but it was undoubtedly the 'Cape Fear Gazette' [over the 
word Gazette is written in the same hand 'Mercury?']. The ex- 
tract furnishes a proof, that the Resolves, as they were actually 
passed, were the same as contained in the Newspaper; and that the Re- 
solves published recently in North Carolina, purporting to be copied from 
a manuscript found among the papers of General Davie, are essentially 
altered from the original, and that this alteration took place after the 
' Declaration of Independence.' I believe Mr. Peter Force has in his pos- 
session the Newspaper, which contains the original resolves. I think, also, 
that they have been reprinted, within the last year or two, in the 
'Southern Literary Messenger' at Richmond." The May 3ist resolves 
were partly printed in the Southern Literary Messenger of June, 1839. 
Jared Sparks was the first to call attention to Governor Martin's letter of 
June 30, 1775. He stated that the newspaper alluded to could not be 
found. (Gov. Swain in Cooke's Rev'y Hist, of N. C. t 105.) It is entirely 
gratuitous to suppose that Andrew Stevenson stole the newspaper loaned to 
him as a courtesy of the Keeper of the British State Papers, or that he 
ever examined it or knew its importance when it was in his possession, and 
withheld it from the public for twenty years. It is much more probable 
that it was lost before any one saw it who could appreciate its significance. 
If the person who borrowed it in Stevenson's name had produced it during 
those twenty years, it would not, as Grah am supposes, have settled 
the Mecklenburg question. In his lecture before the N. Y. Historical 



T H B 




MERCURY; 



CAPE -FEAR 



*^**x*xx^^ 

(' } Y, Jw* 3- t 1775. ) NO. 





The spurious Cape-Fear Mercury, Friday, June 3rd, 1775. 



The Lost " Cape-Fear Mercury " 53 

Johnston. 30 June 1 775. Governor Martin. N 34 
(Duplicate original not rec d .) R. Sept r 10 1775 (3 
Inclosures) Ent d ." The manuscript copy of the 
Mecklenburg resolves bears the indorsement : " In 
Gov r Martin's of the 30 of June, 1775, N. 34." The 
resolves do not agree verbatim with those in the 
Charleston paper of June 13, 1775, or with those in 
the New-Bern paper of June 16, 1775, and they are 
not dated ; but there is no material difference 

Society in 1852, Dr. Hawks, who was then the foremost advocate of the 
Mecklenburg Declaration, said that Governor Martin's description of the 
resolves in the Cape-Fear Mercury ', applied exactly to the May 3ist 
resolves ; and in his address at Charlotte in 1857 he spoke of the publica- 
tion of the resolves in Wilmington as an established fact. Governor Swain 
wrote Bancroft, March 18, 1858, that it was then " conceded on all sides 
that the Resolutions of the 31 May were the Resolutions published in the 
Cape-Fear Mercury and transmitted by Gov. Martin to the English 
government." In 1864, when the advocates of the document of May 2Oth 
had begun to change their ground, Col. John H. Wheeler visited London 
and learned from the memorandum on the back of Governor Martin's letter 
that [the newspaper had been taken out for Mr. Stevenson. Up to that 
time, as far as the writer has been able to ascertain, the literature of the 
question fails to disclose a single intimation that there was ever a copy of 
the Cape-Fear Mercury in the British archives. Colonel Wheeler treated 
the loss of the paper as an unfortunate accident. It has remained for 
more recent writers to assert that Jefferson's defenders destroyed the 
evidence of the authenticity of the Mecklenburg Declaration. To confirm 
their theories and to put upon the market a clever forgery, S. Millington 
Miller contributed to Collier's for July i, 1905, a facsimile of what purported 
to be a portion of an issue of the Cape-Fear Mercury for June 3, 1775, and 
alleged that he had found the original among papers left by Andrew 
Stevenson. This paper is here reproduced from a plate kindly furnished 
by the Macmillan Company and the editor of the American Historical 
Review. It was proved to be spurious by the friends as well as by the 
opponents of the Mecklenburg Declaration. The evidence is fully presented 
in the American Historical Review for April, 1906. See also the Columbia 
(S. C.) State, July 30, 1905 ; The True Mecklenburg " Declaration of In- 
dependence," by A. S. Salley, Jr. (Columbia S. C., 1905); the Charlotte 
(N. C.) Daily Observer , Nov. 17, 1905, Jan. I, 12, 1906 ; and the Souvenir 
Programme of the celebration of the I3ist anniversary of the Mecklenburg 
Declaration (Charlotte, N. C., 1906), pp. 15-21. 



54 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

between the three copies. 1 Governor Martin's sec- 
retary took little pains to make an accurate tran- 
script of the resolves, as is shown by his egregious 
errors, and the Cape-Fear Mercury was a badly- 
printed newspaper. 2 

Since only three inclosures, two of which are 
now with his original letter, are referred to by 
Governor Martin and noted in the indorsement ; 
since he mentions only one newspaper, and only 
one is known to have been removed from the 
Public Record Office, it is clear that this newspaper 
contained both the Mecklenburg resolves and the 
reply to the Governor's proclamation made by the 
committees of the Wilmington district on June 
21, 1775. This newspaper was either the Cape- 
Fear Mercury or the North-Carolina Gazette of 
June 23d or June 3Oth, for the Mecklenburg re- 
solves cannot be found in the Virginia Gazettes? 
and the reply to the proclamation did not appear 
in the Charleston papers until the first week in 
July. The North-Carolina Gazette may be elimi- 
nated, because the Mecklenburg resolves would 
hardly have been printed both in the issue of June 

1 A copy of this document from the original in the possession of the Earl 
of Dartmouth will be found in the Appendix. Transcripts and informa- 
tion concerning manuscripts in the Earl of Dartmouth's collection and in 
the Public Record Office have been obtained from Messrs. B. F. Stevens & 
Brown, of London, from B. F. Stevens's Calendar of the MSS. of the 
Earl of Dartmouth {Historical MSS. Commission, i$th Report, Appendix, 
Part X.), and from the Bancroft transcripts in the New York Public 
Library. 

a Thomas : History of Printing, ii, 365. 

* The Virginia Gazettes were examined for the writer by the courtesy of 
Mr. W. G. Stanard, of the Va. Hist. Soc. 



The Lost " Cape-Fear Mercury " 55 

1 6th and in one of the two next issues, and because 
Governor Martin was almost entirely cut off from 
communication with New-Bern. It is most likely, 
moreover, that the newspaper which Governor 
Martin spoke of in his address at Fort Johnston 
on June 25th was not the North- Carolina Gazette 
of June 1 6th or the South Carolina Gazette ; And 
Country Journal of June I3th, neither of which 
contained the reply to his proclamation, but the 
newspaper which he inclosed in his letter of June 
3<Dth. As the Mecklenburg resolutions are known 
to have been printed in the Cape-Fear Mercury, 
we may be sure that it was done one week, rather 
than two weeks, after they appeared in the New-Bern 
paper. The evidence cited to show that the Cape- 
Fear Mercury of Friday, June 23, 1775 (No. 261), 
contained the reply of the Wilmington committee 
to the Governor's proclamation, and the evidence 
that the newspaper sent in Governor Martin's 
letter to Lord Dartmouth could have been no 
other, is conclusive. 

Governor Martin's subsequent letters and public 
papers show that, notwithstanding attempts to pre- 
vent his adherents from communicating with him, 
he was well informed of movements in all parts of 
the province, but never heard of any other extraor- 
dinary manifesto of Mecklenburg County than 
that of May 31, 1775. If writers on the Meck- 
lenburg Declaration had quoted all his statements 
relative to the publication of the committee of 
Mecklenburg, other evidence would not have been 
necessary to identify it. 



56 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

Governor Martin's dispatch of June 3Oth was 
not sent off until after July 6th, when he wrote 
again to Lord Dartmouth, (Dispatch No. 35), and 
said 1 : " I have engaged Mr. Alex'r Schawwhom I 
now have the honor to introduce to your Lordship 
to charge himself with this Letter and my Dispatch 
No. 34." Dispatch No. 36, dated July i6th, con- 
tains accounts received from Boston " since the 
departure of Mr. Schaw," it reads, "who was 
charged with my Dispatches to your Lordship No. 
34 and 35, Duplicates of which are herewith in- 
closed." 2 The manuscript copy of the Mecklenburg 
resolves went to England, therefore, with these 
latter dispatches. They were sent off onjuly2oth 
with a letter of that date (No. 38) and another written 
in the meantime, by a passenger in a merchant's 
ship, 3 who delivered them as their indorsements 
show, on September 10, 1775. Lord Dartmouth 
wrote Governor Martin, September 15, 1775 : " I 
have received from the hands of Mr. Burgwine your 
dispatches numbered 34, 35, 36, 37, and 38, the first 
two being duplicates, the originals of which you 
mention to have been trusted to Mr. Schaw, who 
has not yet appeared." 4 

Alexander Schaw arrived in England in October, 
I 775- The sole object of his going was to confer 
with Lord Dartmouth, at the request of Governor 
Martin and the president of the Council, upon the 

1 Col. Rec. of N. C, x., 70. 

* Ibid., x., 96. 

8 Ibid., x., 98, 100, 108. 

* Ibid., x., 247. 



The Lost " Cape-Fear Mercury" 57 

plan of military operations intended for North 
Carolina, which resulted in the battle of Moore's 
Creek Bridge in February, 1776. Governor Martin 
was to take personal charge of these operations, 
and a numerous body of the Scotch Highlanders 
of the province had engaged to join him. Schaw 
stated that most of the inhabitants of Wilmington 
were well affected. His long letters to Lord Dart- 
mouth contain no mention of the Mecklenburg 
Declaration of Independence, and show that it 
would certainly have been brought to the Gov- 
ernor's notice if it was ever passed. 1 

On July 18, 1775, a meeting of the Council was 
held on board the sloop of war Cruizer, in the 
Cape Fear River, which Governor Martin had 
found to be a safer retreat than Fort Johnston. 
The Council Journal reads 2 : 

The Governor having informed the Board that he had 
received advices that the People of the County of Bladen 
were persuing the Example of the People of Mecklenburg, 
whose treasonable proceedings he had communicated to the 
Council at the last meeting [June 25th] desired the advice of 
the Council on the measures expedient to be taken to counter- 
act such unwarrantable and dangerous extravagancies and to 
check and prevent the growth of that spirit of disorder which 
at this time unhappily prevails in a great part of the Province 
and especially in the County of Mecklenburg and the Counties 
on the Sea Coasts, particularly evinced by the meetings which 
have been held among the People for the choice of Military 
Officers by which they have usurped the undoubted Pre- 
rogative of the Crown, and the frequent Assemblings of the 

1 Alexander Schaw to Lord Dartmouth, October 31 and November 8, 
1775 ; Earl of Dartmouth's MSS. 
9 Col. Rec. of N. C., x., 106-107. 



58 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

People in Arms by the invitation of officers so illegally con- 
stituted James Hasell [a member of the Council] is 

of opinion that his Excellency should take every lawfull 
measure in his power to suppress the unnatural Rebellion 
now fomenting in Mecklenburg and other parts of the Pro- 
vince in order to overturn the Constitution and His just 
prerogative. 

Governor Martin here speaks of the same 
" treasonable proceedings " of Mecklenburg to 
which he had called the attention of the Council 
on June 25th. Neither the Governor nor the 
Council had any idea that Mecklenburg County 
formally declared independence nearly two months 
before. They knew that Mecklenburg had de- 
clared the constitution of the colony wholly sus- 
pended, (which the Governor loosely called an 
entire dissolution on another occasion,) and had 
usurped the royal prerogative by electing their 
own civil and military officers. Bladen County, 
which followed the example of Mecklenburg, 
has yet to set up a claim for having declared 
independence. 

On the i8th of August, 1775, the governor 
issued a long and " fiery" proclamation from the 
Cruizer* He states that he has seen in the Cape- 
Fear Mercury the reply of the Wilmington com- 
mittee to his proclamation of June i6th, which 
characterized him, he says, as "an Enemy to the 
Interests of this Province in particular and America 
in General," and that he has "also seen a most 
infamous publication in the Cape-Fear Mercury 

1 Col. Rec. of N. C., x., 141-151. 



The Lost " Cape-Fear Mercury" 59 

importing to be resolves of a set of people stiling 
themselves a Committee for the County of Meck- 
lenburg most traitorously declaring the entire dis- 
solution of the Laws, Government, and Constitution 
of this country, and setting up a system of rule 
and regulation repugnant to the Laws and sub- 
versive of His Majesty's Government." Governor 
Martin's language can be properly applied to noth- 
ing less than a declaration of independence, but 
he would never have written several descriptions 
of the alleged declaration of May 2oth in which 
neither the words " independence " or " allegiance " 
are used. The paper to which the Governor re- 
fers, moreover, concerns the laws, government, and 
constitution of " this country," as does the paper of 
May 3ist, while the supposititious declaration was 
only a county affair. The Governor mentions pub- 
lications in two other issues of the Cape-Fear 
Mercury, and gives the dates; but he could not 
give the date of the publication of either the Meck- 
lenburg resolves or the reply to his proclamation. 
He probably sent off in his letter of June 3oth his 
only copy of the Cape-Fear Mercury of June 23d, 
and forgot its date. Hence the duplicate letter, 
enclosing the undated manuscript copy of the 
Mecklenburg resolves, did not contain the reply 
to the proclamation, although spoken of at length 
in the letter. 

Governor Martin's last reference to the Meck- 
lenburg resolves is contained in his dispatch of 
August 28, 1775 (No. 39), to the Earl of Dart- 



60 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

mouth. 1 It will be remembered that the manu- 
script copy of the resolves was sent on July 2Oth 
with a dispatch of that date (No. 38) and earlier 
ones. The Governor writes that loyal subjects in 
the interior have been prevented from communi- 
cating with him. 

All of them [he says] who have come down here to consult 
me about their safety, have been intercepted coming or going, 
and searched, detained, abused, and stript of any Papers they 
have had about them except a Messenger from a considerable 
Body of Germans, settled in the County of Mecklenburg, who 
brought me a loyal declaration against the Very extraordinary 
and traitorous resolves of the Committee of that County, of 
which I had the honor to transmit a copy to your Lordship 
with my last Dispatches. 

Here we have a direct reference by Governor 
Martin to the manuscript in his duplicate dispatch 
of June 30, 1775, thus identifying with absolute 
certainty the Mecklenburg resolves that he spoke 
of in his letters, his addresses to the Council, and 
his proclamation. We have also the strongest evi- 
dence that the May 3ist resolves were not pre- 
ceded by a declaration of independence, for the 
Tories of Mecklenburg would not have drawn up a 
protest against them, rather than against the de- 
claration of eleven days earlier, in order to show 
their loyalty. The messenger from Mecklenburg 
told Governor Martin nothing about the earlier 
declaration. The only conclusion consistent with 
historical probability is that the paper remembered 
in Mecklenburg as a declaration of independence, 

1 Col. Rec. of N. C, x., 230-237. 



The Lost " Cape-Fear Mercury" 61 

as having been proclaimed before assembled thou- 
sands at Charlotte in May, 1775, and as having 
been widely known in the western part of North 
Carolina, where Governor Martin's adherents were 
most numerous, was the paper of May 31, 1775, 
which the Governor, ignorant of an earlier mani- 
festo of a like import, virtually called a declaration 
of independence, and denounced as the most ex- 
traordinary of "all the horrid and treasonable 
publications that the inflammatory spirits of this 
Continent have yet produced." 

The May 3ist resolves were also dispatched to 
England by the royal Governor James Wright, of 
Georgia, who regarded them in much the same 
light as did Governor Martin. In a letter to the 
Earl of Dartmouth, written at Savannah, June 20, 
1775, in which he enclosed a copy of the South- 
Carolina Gazette; And Country Journal, of June 
J 3> J 775> Gov. Wright said: "By the inclosed 
Paper your Lordship will see the extraordinary 
Resolves of the People in Charlotte Town Meck- 
lenburg County ; and I should not be surprized if 
the same should be done every where else." 1 

Similar expressions from two men who stood high 
in the ranks of North Carolina patriots are con- 
firmatory. On June 18, 1775, Richard Cogdell, 
chairman of the committee at New-Bern, transmitted 
to Richard Caswell, then in attendance on the Con- 

1 Transcript in the Bancroft Collection, N. Y. Pub. Lib. Bancroft noted : 
*' This last Paragraph is in Wright's own hand writing : the former part of 
the letter being written by a secretary or clerk." Bancroft found the letter 
and newspaper in London in 1847, where they are still preserved in the 
Public Record Office. 



62 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

tinental Congress, the copy of the North-Carolina 
Gazette published in New-Bern on the 1 6th of the 
month, which was recently unearthed. He wrote: 
" you '1 observe the Mecklinburg resolves exceeds 
all other Committees or the Congress itself. I send 
you the paper wherein they are inserted. " Cog- 
dell had heard of no action of Mecklenburg county 
approaching a declaration of independence but 
that of May 3ist. On the 27th of June Samuel 
Johnston, who served as president of the Provincial 
Congress two months later, wrote Joseph Hewes, 
another North Carolina delegate at Philadelphia : 
" Tom Polk, too, is raising a very pretty spirit in 
the back country (see the newspapers). He has 
gone a little farther than I would choose to have 
gone, but perhaps no further than was necessary. " * 

1 See Appendix. 



CHAPTER V 

CAPTAIN JACK'S MISSION TO PHILADELPHIA 

THE most important circumstance mentioned by 
Governor Martin in connection with the Meck- 
lenburg resolves of May 31, 1775, stands out 
prominently in the reminiscences of John McKnitt 
Alexander, as being associated with the declaration 
of independence of which he is sponsor. Governor 
Martin wrote Lord Dartmouth on June 30, 1775, 
with reference to the May 3ist resolves : " A copy 
of these Resolves I am informed were sent off by 
express to the Congress at Philadelphia as soon as 
they were passed in the Committee." On the other 
hand, John McKnitt Alexander states that the 
paper of May 2oth was sent by express to the 
Continental Congress, and nearly all who were 
called upon to corroborate his statements testified 
that the declaration of independence which they 
recollected to have heard read in Charlotte on that 
date, or about that date, was so dispatched. 
Neither Governor Martin, nor John McKnitt 
Alexander, nor the witnesses to the meeting at 
Charlotte in May, 1775, sa Y tnat two series of 

63 



64 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

resolutions, adopted eleven days apart, were sent ; 
and it is admitted on all hands that only one man 
rode express from Charlotte to Philadelphia as 
bearer of resolves adopted in that month. Here 
we have most striking proof that the story of 
the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence be- 
longs to the May 3ist resolves. 

Captain James Jack, whom the aged witnesses 
named as the bearer of the declaration of inde- 
pendence, was solicited in 1819 to state what he 
knew of the matter. Captain Jack was then in his 
eighty-eighth year. He could not say with cer 
tainty when the declaration was adopted, but had 
recently seen newspaper articles on the subject. 
He wrote as follows : 

When the resolutions were finally agreed on, they were pub- 
licly proclaimed from the court-house door in the town of 
Charlotte, and received with every demonstration of joy by 
the inhabitants. 

I was then solicited to be the bearer of the proceedings to 
Congress. I set out the following month, say June, and in 
passing through Salisbury, the General Court was sitting at 
the request of the court I handed a copy of the resolutions to 
Col. Kennon, an Attorney, and they were read aloud in open 
court. Major William Davidson, and Mr. Avery, an attorney, 
called on me at my lodgings the evening after, and observed, 
that they heard of but one person, (a Mr. Beard) but approved 
of them. 

I then proceeded on to Philadelphia, and delivered the 
Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence of May, 1775, to 
Richard Caswell and William Hooper, the Delegates to Con- 
gress from the State of North-Carolina. 

Capt. Jack recalled but one series of resolutions. 
He states in one place that he bore the "pro- 



Captain Jack's Mission to Philadelphia 65 

ceedings " to Congress, but they were the proceed- 
ings of only one meeting. From the circumstances 
attending his journey to Philadelphia it will be 
seen that he could not possibly have carried a 
declaration of independence of the 2oth of May, 
1775. All contemporary testimony points to the 
paper of May 3ist. 

The only court held at Salisbury for a month or 
more after May 20, 1775, was a court of oyer and 
terminer for the Salisbury district, comprising 
Mecklenburg, Rowan, and four neighboring coun- 
ties, which sat from June ist to June 6th, 1775. 
This was the " General Court " which was in ses- 
sion when Captain Jack passed through Salisbury. 1 
Salisbury was the county seat of Rowan, adjoining 
Mecklenburg, and forty miles from Charlotte. The 
significance of the fact that Captain Jack left Char- 
lotte after May 31, 1775, and within six days after, 
is palpable when we consider that Governor Martin 
was informed that the May 3ist resolves were 
sent to Philadelphia as soon as they were passed, 
that the witnesses state that the resolves which 
they had in mind were sent off a few days after 
their adoption, and that no one tells us that Captain 
Jack, an " express," tarried two weeks in Charlotte 
before starting on his mission. 

The papers carried by Captain Jack were of such 
a nature that when publicly read in court at Salis- 
bury during the first week in June, a court held 
under the King's commission by men who took the 

1 The minutes of the court are printed in the Col. Ree. of N. C. t x., 1-9. 
Cf. Adam Brevard's narrative in Wheeler's Reminiscences of N. C., 242. 



66 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

oath, at the opening of court, for the qualification 
of crown officers, 1 they met with unanimous ap- 
proval ; of such a nature that, notwithstanding its 
approval, the court continued to administer justice 
in the King's name ; of such a nature that at a later 
date staunch Whigs of Salisbury could conscien- 
tiously take the oath for the qualification of public 
officers and hold other courts there under the 
King's commission 2 ; of such a nature, in fine, that 
a large number of jurors who heard and approved 
them could sincerely profess their ardent desire for 
reconciliation with Great Britain a few weeks later 
as members of committees of safety in neighboring 
counties. 3 Here may be found a small part of the 
"accumulation of miracles," as John Adams ex- 
pressed it, which those who contend that Captain 
Jack bore a declaration of independence when he 
passed through Salisbury have never attempted to 
explain away. 

The time of Captain Jack's arrival in Philadelphia 
is ascertained from a joint certificate given in 1830 
by Alphonso Alexander, Amos Alexander, and 
Dr. Joseph McKnitt Alexander, who state that 
they 

frequently heard William S. Alexander, dec'd, say that he, 
the said Wm. S. Alexander, was at Philadelphia on mercantile 
business in the early part of the summer of 1775, say in June ; 
and that on the day that Gen. Washington left Philadelphia 
to take command of the Northern army, he, the said Wm. S. 

1 Col. Rec. of N. C.,x., I. 
9 Ibid., x., 139, 435 

., x., 163, 228-229, 296-298, etc. 



Captain Jack's Mission to Philadelphia 67 

Alexander, met with Capt. James Jack, who informed him, 
the said William S. Alexander, that he, the said James Jack, 
was there as the agent or bearer of the Declaration of Inde- 
pendence made in Charlotte on the twentieth day of May, 
seventeen hundred and seventy-five, by the citizens of Meck- 
lenburg, then including Cabarrus, with instructions to present 
the same to the Delegates from North Carolina, and by them 
to be laid before Congress, and which he said he had done. 

General Washington left Philadelphia to take 
command of the army before Boston on Friday, 
June 23, 1775.' The papers that Captain Jack de- 
livered on that day, or shortly before, to Caswell, 
Hooper, and Hewes, the North Carolina delegates 
in the Continental Congress, then in session, are 
not mentioned in the journal of that body, because 
of their character, or because, it is said, they were 
not formally laid before it. Charles Thomson, the 
secretary, had not yet perfected his method of 
noting papers and reports coming to the Congress. 2 

Captain Jack found the Continental Congress 
aiming to act as dutiful subjects contending for their 
political rights, avowing that in taking up arms the 
colonies had no wish to dissolve the connection 
which had so long and happily subsisted, they said, 3 
with Great Britain, and sedulously and honestly 
pursuing a policy of reconciliation. The Congress 
expressed the feelings of Americans generally. In 
1776, Washington wrote : " When I took command 
of the army, I abhorred the idea of independence." 

1 Pennsylvania Gazette June 28, 1775, and Rivingtorfs New York 
Gazetteer \ June 29, 1775. 

* Worthington C. Ford, in The Nation, Ixxxii, 475. 

3 Journals of the Continental Congress , ii. (Ford ed.), 135, 138. Declaration 
on taking up arms. 



68 The Meckenburg Declaration 

It may be safely said that not one member of 
the Continental Congress would have approved 
a declaration of independence by Mecklenburg 
County. The few ardent spirits among its mem- 
bers who favored independence, but dared not as 
yet to openly advocate it, would have deplored the 
hasty action of Mecklenburg as a premature step 
towards independence which would invoke division 
and ruin. But John McKnitt Alexander, the cus- 
todian of the original records of the Mecklenburg 
committee, tells us that on the return of Captain 
Jack the committee "learned that their proceed- 
ings were individually approved by the Members 
of Congress [evidently the North Carolina mem- 
bers], but it was deemed premature to lay them 
before the House. A joint letter from said three 
members of Congress was also received, com- 
plimentary of the zeal in the common cause, and 
recommending perseverance, order and energy." 
It appears from the statements of others who were 
present in Charlotte at that time that Captain Jack 
returned answers "both from the President and our 
Delegates in Congress, expressive of their entire 
approbation of the course that had been adopted, 
recommending a continuance in the same ; and 
that the time would soon be, when the whole Con- 
tinent would follow our example." Rev. Francis 
Cummins, whose testimony is valuable because he 
did not refresh his memory by a sight of the Alex- 
ander narrative, states that Captain Jack "brought 
back to the county the thanks of Congress for 
their zeal, and the advice of Congress to be a little 



Captain Jack's Mission to Philadelphia 69 

more patient until Congress should take the mea- 
sures thought to be best." 

These messages to Mecklenburg are in keeping 
only with the May 3ist resolves. In private let- 
ters and in public papers Hooper, Hewes, and Cas- 
well expressed their ardent desire for reconciliation 
in terms which show plainly that they neither saw 
nor approved a declaration of independence by 
Mecklenburg county. Joseph Hewes wrote from 
Philadelphia on July 8, I775, 1 to his friend James 
Iredell in North Carolina, that the British ministry 
"charge us with rebellion because we will not be- 
lieve that they have a right to make laws to bind 
us in all cases whatsoever. Strange that we should 
be deemed rebels for an article of faith, after all 
this, they add insult to injury and tell us we are all 
poltroons and cowards." Hewes would no doubt 
have thought it far stranger if the injurious charge 
of rebellion was made on the ground that a large 
number of his constituents had formally declared 
independence of Great Britain, a proceeding which 
is said to have elicited his commendation about 
two weeks before the date of this letter. William 
Hooper wrote Iredell from Philadelphia on Jan. 
uary 6, I776 2 : "Yes, Britain, it is the criterion 
of thy existence ; thy greatness totters. Luxury 

1 McRee's Life and Correspondence of James Iredell^ i., 258. 

* Ibid., i., 269. Compare this with Hooper's letter of April 26, 1774, 
as printed in Jones's Defence of N. C., 312-315, in which he says that the 
colonies " are striding fast to independence, and ere long will build an 
empire upon the ruin of Great Britain ; will adopt its constitution purged of 
its impurities," etc. His meaning, it appears from his subsequent letter, 
was that " America must become the seat of empire," and that Britain should 
" sink away in the arms of American sons." 



70 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

and wealth, with every vice in their train, are 
hurrying thee down the precipice, and liberty, 
shuddering at thy fate, in seeking an asylum 
westward. Oh, heaven ! still check her approach- 
ing ruin ; restore her to the affection of her Ameri- 
can subjects. May she long flourish the guardian 
of freedom, ..." In the Provincial Congress which 
met at Hillsboro on August 20, 1775, Hooper drew 
up an address to the inhabitants of Great Britain in 
which he said 1 : " We have been told that Independ- 
ence is our object ; that we seek to shake off all 
connection with the parent State. Cruel sugges- 
tion ! Do not all our professions, all our actions, 
uniformly contradict this ? " Is it not " cruel," then, 
to suggest that Mecklenburg county shook off all 
political connection with the parent State a few 
months before? In reply to a vote of thanks 
by the same Provincial Congress for their pa- 
triotic and faithful discharge of the trust reposed in 
them as delegates to the Continental Congress, 
Hooper, Caswell, and Hewes declared that they 
had acted with " hearts warmed with a Zealous 
love of Liberty, and desirous of reconciliation with 
the parent State upon Terms just and Constitu- 
tional." 2 Richard Caswell wrote a circular letter to 
the town and county committees of North Caro- 
lina, dated June 19, 1775, and signed by himself 
and his two colleagues, in which he urged his con- 
stituents to form themselves into militia companies 
and to be in readiness to resist force by force. He 

i Col. Rec. of N. C., x., 202 ; N. C. Booklet, July, 1905, v., 54. 
* Col. Rec. ofN. C.,x., 189. 



Captain Jack's Mission to Philadelphia 7 1 

said in conclusion : " look to the reigning monarch 
of Britain as your rightful and lawful sovereign ; 
dare every danger and difficulty in support of his 
person, crown, and dignity, and consider every man 
as a Traitor to his King who infringing the Rights 
of his American Subjects attempts to invade those 
glorious Revolution principles which placed him on 
the Throne and must preserve him there." 1 Dur- 
ing the last week in June, 1775, Caswell sent copies 
of this letter to the New-Bern Committee of Safety 
for distribution in the eastern counties of North 
Carolina, but copies for the western counties were 
sent during the same week "by a man," said a mem- 
ber of the New-Bern committee, "who was going 
from Philadelphia to Mecklenburg county" 3 in 
all probability Captain Jack. What advice to men 
who had absolved themselves from all allegiance to 
the British crown, from men who approved their 
conduct ! 

If Captain Jack delivered a declaration of inde- 
pendence to Hooper, Hewes, and Caswell, it is most 
improbable that they would or could have con- 
cealed the fact during the entire period of their 
careers in Congress. Caswell served until July, 
1775, Hooper, though absent during the debates on 
independence, until 1777, and Hewes until Sep- 
tember, 1776, and in 1779. Captain Jack, more- 
over, was under no injunction of secrecy. His papers 

1 Col. Rec. of N. C., x., 23. Hewes wrote July 8, 1775, that Caswell 
drafted the circular letter ibid., x., 85. 

8 Ibid, x., 65, 66, 85. The arrival of the messenger at Salem, N. C., on 
July 7th, is recorded in a historical sketch written in 1783 by an eye witness 
and now among the archives of the Moravian church at Bethania, N. C. 
See \b&Wachovia Moravian (Winston-Salem, N. C.), October, 1906. 



72 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

were publicly read at Salisbury, and he no doubt 
revealed their nature to more than one man in 
Philadelphia besides William S. Alexander. The 
silence of the North Carolina delegates was enough 
to convince the "Colossus of Independence," John 
Adams, that the Mecklenburg resolutions of May 
20, 1775, were spurious. Adams wrote a few 
months after their first publication in 1819 *: "I was 
on social, friendly terms with Caswell, Hooper, 
and Hewes, every moment of their existence in 
Congress; with Hooper, a Bostonian, and a son of 
Harvard, intimate and familiar. Yet from neither 
of the three did the slightest hint of these Mecklen- 
burg resolutions ever escape. Is it possible that such 
resolutions should have escaped the vigilant atten- 
tion of the scrutinizing, penetrating minds of Patrick 
Henry, R. H. Lee, Mr. Jefferson, Mr. Gadsden, 
Mr. Rutledge, Mr. Jay, Mr. Sherman, Mr. Samuel 
Adams ? Haud credo. I cannot believe that they 
were known to one member of Congress on the 4th 
of July, 1 776." Adams said that he would " as easily 
believe that a flaming Brand might be thrust into a 
magazine of Powder without producing an Explo- 
sion as that those Resolutions could have passed 
in 1775 [and] had not been known to any Member of 
Congress in 1 776." 2 "Armed with this bold exam- 
ple," wrote Jefferson to Adams, 3 "would not you have 
addressed our timid brethren in peals of thunder 
on their tardy fears ? Would not every advocate of 

1 Adams to William Bentley, August 21, 1819, Works, x., 383. 

9 Adams to Jefferson, July 28, 1819, Jefferson MSS. 

8 Jefferson to Adams, July 9, 1819, Writings (Ford ed.), x, 136-139. 



' i : - 

Captain Jack's Mission to Philadelphia 73 Z\ 

* '''. * i 

independence have rung the glories of Mecklenburg 

county, in North Carolina, in the ears of the doubt- 
ing Dickinson and others, who hung so heavily on 
us ? Yet the example of independent Mecklenburg 
county, in North Carolina, was never once quoted." 
Up to this point we have found that nearly every 
known circumstance attending Captain Jack's jour- 
ney from Charlotte to Philadelphia, the statements 
of the North Carolina delegates in the Continental 
Congress, and the testimony of Adams and Jefferson, 
are inconsistent with the hypothesis that Captain 
Jack carried a declaration of independence, and 
that the proofs relied on to support that hypothesis, 
considered in the light of contemporaneous testi- 
mony, point to the paper of May 3ist as the " dec- 
laration of independence" which he carried. Add- 
ing to this the direct contemporaneous testimony of 
Governor Martin that the May 3ist resolves were 
sent to Philadelphia, we may conclude from these 
facts alone that Captain Jack carried those resolves 
and not the supposititious document of May 2oth. 
The message of the North Carolina delegates to the 
people of Mecklenburg county, complimenting them 
upon their zeal in the common cause, but saying 
that their resolves were premature to be laid before 
Congress, and advising them, as Francis Cummins 
says, to be a little more patient until Congress should 
take the measures thought to be best, thus becomes 
entirely in keeping with their known political 
sentiments and with the political situation of the 
American colonies in the summer of 1775. The 
" prematureness " of the May 3 ist resolves and their 



74 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

important relation to the problem of providing a 
temporary substitute for the lost authority of civil 
government during the dispute with Great Britain, 
a problem which engaged the thoughts of men in 
many parts of America, have been overlooked or 
underestimated. In every colony the forms of the 
prostrate old government were respected; its officers 
were recognized in their official capacity and per- 
mitted to exercise more or less of their authority. 
By openly approving the May 3ist resolves, the 
Continental Congress was asked to declare that un- 
der its direction the Provincial Congress of each 
colony should assume the powers of government, and 
that until " the legislative body of Great Britain re- 
sign its unjust and arbitrary pretentions with re- 
spect to America " no other legislative or executive 
power did or could exist in any of the colonies. 
Such a step in June, 1775, would have driven many 
a sturdy patriot from the Continental Congress. 
The Suffolk resolves, approved in September, 
1 774, averred only that obedience should be refused 
to specified oppressive and unconstitutional acts 
of Parliament and to officials appointed by or 
holding their places under those acts or other- 
wise contrary to the directions of the charter 
and laws of Massachusetts. 1 The case of Massa- 
chusetts was a special one, growing out of acts 
of Parliament altering the charter and laws of 
the province. And yet the friends of the Meck- 
lenburg Declaration, claiming for that document 
the pre-eminence assigned to the May 3ist resolves 

1 Journals of the Cont. Cong. (Forded.), i., 32-37. 



Captain Jack's Mission to Philadelphia 75 

by the horrified Governor of North Carolina, and 
seemingly unaware that these resolves are probably 
more strongly indicative of a conscious striving for 
independence than any others of their date, and 
that they presented for consideration to the Conti- 
nental Congress a question which no other body of 
men on the continent was competent to decide, 
argue that if no other resolves were adopted in 
Mecklenburg county in May, 1775, "there would 
have been no reason for transmitting copies post- 
haste to the Continental Congress, nor would the 
Thirty-first Resolves, with their comparatively 
tame resolutions, have elicited from the President 
of Congress and the North Carolina delegates to 
Congress the comments ascribed to them. "* 

A few weeks before the arrival of Captain Jack 
in Philadelphia (June 2, 1775), the Continental 
Congress was called upon to face the very issue 
that was brought up by the May 3ist resolves by 
replying to an application of the Provincial Con- 
gress of Massachusetts for " most explicit advice re- 
specting the taking up and exercising the powers of 
civil government." The patriots of Massachusetts 
stated that they were denied the exercise of civil 
government according to their charter, that they had 
declined, though urged by the most pressing ne- 
cessity, to take up the reins of civil government, as 
the question equally affected the other colonies, and 
that they were ready to submit to such a general 
plan as Congress might propose to all, or would study 
to form such a government as would promote not 

1 North American Review ', July, 1905, 50. 



76 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

only their own advantage, but the union and inter- 
est of all America. 1 The Continental Congress 
decided this case on its special circumstances, avoid- 
ing any recommendation that might be construed 
to suggest that colonies abrogate authority under 
the crown, and advised Massachusetts to proceed un- 
der the charter and choose councillors to " exercise 
the powers of Government, until a Governor, of his 
Majesty's appointment, will consent to govern the 
colony according to its charter." 2 Four months 
later (October 18, 1775), New Hampshire, which 
had no charter to fall back upon, and suffered from 
the absence of authority, asked advice respecting 
the administration of justice and the regulation of 
"civil police." 3 The Congress hesitated. Another 
request of this nature came from the proprietors of 
Transylvania, who had purchased their lands in 
what is now Tennessee and Kentucky from the 
Cherokee Indians ; set up a government for them- 
selves, acknowledging, however, " their allegiance 
to their Sovereign, whose constitutional rights and 
pre-eminence," they said, "they will support at the 
risk of their lives " ; and sent an agent to Phila- 
delphia with a memorial asking that he be admitted 
to a seat in the Continental Congress as a delegate 
from the new colony. The agent, James Hogg, 
arrived in Philadelphia October 22, 1775, and two 
days later had an interview with Samuel and John 
Adams. Although no members of the Congress 



Journals of the Cent. Cong.^ ii., 76-78. 

* Ibid. , ii. , 83-84. Ibid. , iii. , 298. 



Captain Jack's Mission to Philadelphia 77 

were more decided on the question of independence, 
the Adamses told Hogg : " We have petitioned and 
addressed the King, and have entreated him to point 
out some mode of accommodation. There seems to 
be an impropriety in embarrassing our reconciliation 
with anything new ; and the taking under our pro- 
tection of a body of people who have acted in defi- 
ance of the King's proclamations, will be looked on 
as a confirmation of that independent spirit with 
which we are daily reproached." 1 

While the application of New Hampshire was 
under consideration, news of the King's procla- 
mation of August 23, 1775, for suppressing rebel- 
lion and sedition, and his contemptuous refusal of 
the second petition of the Continental Congress, 
reached Philadelphia. On November 3d, three days 
after the receipt of this intelligence and one week 
after the application of New Hampshire was re- 
ferred to a committee, it was recommended that the 
Provincial Congress of New Hampshire " call a full 
and free representation of the people, and establish 
such a form of goverment, as, in their judgment, will 
best produce the happiness of the people, and most 
effectually secure peace and good order in the pro- 
vince during the continuance of the present dispute 
between G[reat] Britain and the colonies." On the 
next day, the Congress gave the same advice to 
South Carolina, and one month later to Virginia. 
Not until the receipt of the news which, in the 
words of Bancroft, caused "the daybreak of the 

Col. Rec. of N. C., x., 258, 373. John Adams: Works, ii. f 430. 



78 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

Revolution," did the popular leaders resolve to aim 
at independence, and the Continental Congress 
take the step suggested by Mecklenburg, which was 
now regarded by all as the first step toward inde- 
pendence. 1 "During the course of my Life, and un- 
til after the second Petition of Congress (in 1775)," 
wrote John Jay, one of its members, in 1821, 4< I 
never did hear any American, of any class, or of any 
Description, express a wish for the Independence 
of the colonies." 2 

Not only were the Mecklenburg resolves of May 
31, 1775, far in advance of political sentiment in the 
colonies, and therefore not to be approved, but the 
policy pursued by the Continental Congress in 
June, 1775, suggested the propriety of giving them 
as little publicity as possible. When Captain Jack 
arrived in Philadelphia the second petition to the 
King, the "Olive Branch," was being prepared. 
This petition expressed a sincere attachment to the 
person, family, and government of the King, and a 
desire for reconciliation. 3 " Our Enemies charge 
us with Sedition," said the address to the inhabit- 
ants of Great Britain, adopted July 8, 1775.* "In 
what does it consist ? In our Refusal to submit 
to unwarrantable Acts of Injustice and Cruelty? 
If so, shew us a Period in your History, in which 
you have not been equally Seditious. We are ac- 
cused of aiming at Independence ; but how is this 

1 Frothingham : Rise of the Republic, 443-453 ; Journals of the Cont. 
Cong., iii., 319, 326-327, 403-404. 
N. E. Hist. &> Gen. Reg., xxx., 326. 
1 Journals of the Cont. Cong., ii., 158-161. 
</., ii., 1 66. 



Captain Jack's Mission to Philadelphia 79 

Accusation supported ? By the Allegations of your 
Ministers, not by our Actions." The address to the 
people of Ireland, reported by a committee consist- 
ing of Duane, W. Livingston, and the two Adamses, 
gravely averred 1 : " Though vilified as wanting in 
spirit, we are determined to behave like men. Though 
insulted and abused, we wish for reconciliation. 
Though defamed as seditious, we are ready to obey 
the laws. And, though charged with rebellion, will 
cheerfully bleed in defence of our Sovereign in a 
righteous cause. What more can we say ? What 
more can we offer ? " The Mecklenburg resolves 
were of a different spirit ; they bordered too near 
on independence to comport with the sincerity and 
truth of the professions of the Continental Con- 
gress, and for the success of the petition to the 
King. It is likely that the North Carolina delegates, 
while approving the resolves in so far as they con- 
cerned Mecklenburg county, thought that it would 
be politic to keep out of the Philadelphia news- 
papers which were the most influential in America 
and probably the best known in England the fact 
that the patriots of Mecklenburg regarded all Brit- 
ish laws and commissions as annulled and vacated, 
and the constitution of each colony suspended. 
The delegates were no doubt informed by Captain 
Jack that the resolves had been sent for publication 
to Charleston and New-Bern, and knew that the 
Philadelphia papers would speedily copy them. 
Perhaps Captain Jack left the copy at New-Bern 
when on his way to Philadelphia. He would have 

1 Journals of the Cont. Cong., ii., 217. 



8o The Mecklenburg Declaration 



N V 



lost little time thereby, and have saved some one a 
long and laborious journey. At all events, the May 
3ist resolves were suppressed in Philadelphia. 

Six English and two German newspapers were 
published in Philadelphia in the summer of 1775. 
The German newspapers have not been found. 
The three leading papers, all edited by stanch 
Whigs, copied nearly all the matter printed from 
original sources in the South-Carolina Gazette; 
A nd Country Journal of June 13, 1775, and failed 
to notice the Mecklenburg resolves printed therein. 
Dunlafis Pennsylvania Packet ', or, the General Ad- 
vertiser of July 3, 1775, prints under " South-Caro- 
lina, June 6," the Association adopted by the Pro- 
vincial Congress of South Carolina on June 3d, 
and immediately afterwards, under "June 13," an 
item of news concerning South Carolina militia 
word for word as it appeared in the South-Carolina 
Gazette; And Country Journal of June 13, 1775. 
The dates of these items show that they were not 
copied from the other South Carolina newspaper, 
which was published weekly, and on June 2d, Qth, 
and 1 6th, and that the issues of the South-Carolina 
Gazette; And Country Journal of June 6th and 
1 3th arrived in Philadelphia at the same time, prob- 
ably by the regular packet from Charleston. The 
Pennsylvania Gazette of July 5, 1775, prints the 
Association under " Charles-Town, So. Ca., June 
6," and under "June 13" the same item of South 
Carolina news which was copied by the Packet ; 
but the Gazette did not copy from the Packet, for 
both the Association and the short item of news 



Captain Jack's Mission to Philadelphia 81 

are printed more nearly as they appear in the 
South-Carolina Gazette; And Country Journal 
than as they appear in the Packet. A supplement 
of the Pennsylvania Journal; and the Weekly Ad- 
vertiser, dated July 5, 1775, prints under " Charles- 
Town (South Carolina), June 13," all the local 
news in the South Carolina paper of June I3th, 
only one short item of which was copied by the 
Packet and Gazette. The other Charleston paper 
contained some of the same news, but not in the 
same words. 

The three remaining Philadelphia newspapers 
printed in English, the Ledger, Mercury, and Even- 
ing Post, had been established only a few months, 
and the little South Carolina news occasionally 
printed was probably copied in great part from the 
three leading papers of the city. No articles from 
the South Carolina Gazette; And Country Journal 
of June 6th or June I3th are to be found in any of 
them except Story and Humphrey s's Pennsylvania 
Mercury, and Universal Advertiser Q{ July 7, 1775, 
which contains the Association as it appears in the 
Gazette, from which paper it was probably copied. All 
three of these papers supported the cause of the 
country, but the printers of the Ledger and Evening 
Post subsequently became Tories. 

The failure of the Philadelphia papers to copy 
the Mecklenburg resolves can be accounted for only 
by the inference that the printers were requested 
not to copy them. We have found no other news- 
papers of this period which copied from the South- 
Carolina Gazette; And Country Journal of June 6th 



82 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

or June I3th and did not copy the resolves which 
surpassed "all the horrid and treasonable publications 
that the inflammatory spirits of this Continent have 
yet produced. " The resolves were copied into New 
York, Boston, and probably other newspapers. 
The New- York Journal ; or, the General Adver- 
tiser vi]\mz. 29, 1775, conducted by John Holt, a 
warm advocate of the cause of the colonies, copied 
the Association and several items of local news from 
the South-Carolina Gazette ; And Country Journal 
of June 6th and June I3th, and the preamble and 
first four Mecklenburg resolves, the balance being 
summarized. Of the other two New York papers, 
the New- York Gazette ; and the Weekly Mercury 
of July 3d copied the Association and Charleston 
news from the South- Carolina and American Ga- 
zette of June Qth ; and Rivingtons New- York Gaz- 
etteer ; or, the Connecticut, Hudson s River, New- 
Jersey, and Quebec Weekly Advertiser printed no 
South Carolina news whatever. The Massachusetts 
Spy or American Oracle of Liberty of July 1 2, 1 775, 
published in Worcester, also copied from the South 
Carolina papers of June 6th and June I3th, and 
printed the preamble and first four resolves of 
Mecklenburg county. The preamble and first 
four resolves contain their continental features the 
" Declaration of Independence " while the others 
concern only the internal government of Mecklen- 
burg county. 1 

1 Newspaper files of the N. Y. Public Library, library of the N. Y. 
Historical Society, Library of Congress, and Boston Public Library. 



CHAPTER VI 

THE SALISBURY RECORDS. 

IF Independence was proclaimed at Charlotte on 
the 2oth of May, 1775, the news would have spread 
like wildfire through the surrounding country. It 
would have reached Salisbury, forty miles away, 
within a day or two later. Salisbury was the county 
seat of Rowan, and second only to Charlotte in 
importance among towns of the western part of the 
province ; and the inhabitants of Rowan, and partic- 
ularly of the town of Salisbury, vied with those of 
Mecklenburg in energetically supporting the cause 
of the country. But on the ist of June, 1775, the 
patriots of Rowan county, assembled in Salisbury 
as the " Committee of the County of Rowan, " had 
not heard that the adjacent county declared inde- 
pendence twelve days before. On that day they 
addressed a letter to the " Committee of the County 
of Mecklenburg, " asking for an interchange of 
the proceedings of the committees, and concluding 
with these words 1 : " We beseech you likewise that 
with us you would lift your Hearts in undissembled 
prayers to the Disposer of all Events, that He 
would by his providence interpose against the 
Counsels of designing Men, that we may have our 

1 Col. Rec. of N. C., x., u. 

83 



84 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

Constitution as contained in the Magna Charta, 
the charter of the forest, the Habeas Corpus Act 
and the charter we brought over with us handed 
down unsullied to posterity, and that under God the 
present House of Hanover in legal succession may 
be the Defender of it" This loyal exhortation could 
not have been addressed to men who were known 
to have formally and publicly absolved themselves 
from allegiance to the Hanoverian king twelve 
days earlier. On the ist of June the Rowan 
Committee also drew up a statement in the name 
of " his Majesty's Loyal subjects, the Committee 
of the County of Rowan, " in which the committee 
and the militia companies of the county avowed 
that it was their duty " to defend the Succession^ 
of his present Majesty and the illustrious Hano- 
verian line likewise the happy Constitution under 
which we live, and that it is our Duty to Surrender 
our lives before our Constitutional privileges to 
any set of Men upon earth." 1 We are told that 
after thus protesting their loyalty to the British 
crown, although determined to resist an oppressive 
ministry, the patriots of Rowan unanimously ap- 
proved a formal declaration of independence within 
a week later, when Captain Jack passed through 
Salisbury ! 

While the Rowan committee knew nothing on the 
ist of June, 1775, of a declaration of independence 
publicly proclaimed forty miles away nearly two 
weeks earlier, they were probably well aware that 
an order had been issued for an important meeting 

1 Col. Rec. of N. C. t x., 10-11. 



The Salisbury Records 85 

of the Mecklenburg committee on May 3ist. The 
heading of the published document of May 31, 
1775, states that the committee met on that day. 
This knowledge, perhaps, or the arrival of some 
one from Charlotte with news of unprecedented 
doings there, was the occasion of the application to 
the Mecklenburg committee for an account of its 
proceedings. Let us change the story of May igih 
and 2oth to May 3ist and June ist, and see well 
how the movements of several actors in the story 
and others warrant the change. Following the 
Alexander narrative and the testimony of the wit- 
nesses, we shall assume that the " delegates " were 
in session until late in the night of May 3ist, at 
which time the resolves were agreed upon, and 
that the resolves were read from the court-house 
steps in the afternoon, according to the testimony 
of Humphrey Hunter, of the following day. 

When the Salisbury district court met at Salis- 
bury on the morning of the ist of June the sheriffs 
of all the six counties in the district were pres- 
ent except Thomas Harris, the sheriff of Meck- 
lenburg, who was fined fifty pounds and ordered to 
show cause for his absence at the next court. But 
it was not because Mecklenburg county had de- 
clared independence twelve days before that Harris 
did not come. In the course of the day he arrived 
in court, and returned his venire. The committee 
meeting and militia muster at Charlotte the day 
before probably detained him, and he set out for 
Salisbury early on the ist of June and before the 
resolves were publicly read. Hence he came to 



86 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

court ignorant of the fact that Mecklenburg had 
resolved that the King's courts should no longer 
administer justice for its inhabitants. The writ re- 
turned by Harris shows that he had summoned for 
jury duty Hezekiah Alexander, Adam Alexander, 
John McKnitt Alexander, Robert Harris, John Mc- 
Culloh, Charles Polk, and Aaron Houston. The first 
three are reputed " signers " of the " Mecklenburg 
Declaration of Independence." Robert Harris has 
been named in this relation, but his granddaughter 
and her husband, who knew him personally, stated 
that they never understood that he was one of the 
famous delegates. 1 All of the Mecklenburg jurors 
except Robert Harris and Charles Polk failed to 
make their appearance and were fined three pounds 
each. We may be sure that Harris and Polk 
would not have heeded the summons of the sheriff 
if Mecklenburg had declared independence on May 
soth. That they, like the sheriff, did not know 
what measures were adopted at Charlotte late in 
the night before the opening of the court is in- 
dicated by the fact that Charles Polk served on the 
grand jury empanelled on June 2d. It was Polk's 
father, according to the story of the iQth and 2Oth 
of May, that read the resolutions from the steps of 
the court-house in Charlotte, which circumstance 
he would surely have known if it took place on the 
alleged date. On June 6th, the last day of the 
court, after Captain Jack's papers had been read 

1 Sketch of Robert Harris in Graham's The Mecklenburg Declaration 
of Independence, 132-134, copied from Lyman C. Draper's manuscript work 
on the Mecklenburg Declaration, in the possession of the State Historical 
Society of Wisconsin. 



The Salisbury Records 87 

by William Kennon at the instance of the presid- 
ing judge, Alexander Martin, a stanch Whig, the 
fine imposed upon the sheriff of Mecklenburg was 
remitted. 1 

1 The minutes of this court are printed in the Co/. Rec. of N. C. t X., 1-9. 



CHAPTER VII 

"AN ACCUMULATION OF MIRACLES " 

THE acts and declarations of several of the re- 
puted " signers " of the Mecklenburg Declaration 
of Independence during the period from May 20, 
1775, to July 4, 1776, form a very striking part of 
the " accumulation of miracles " which confronts 
the orthodox North Carolinian. William Kennon, 
a lawyer of Salisbury, renowned for an eloquent 
and effective speech before the meeting at Charlotte 
on May 20, 1775, and as one of a committee of 
three appointed to draft the declaration, resumed 
the practice of his profession in the King's court at 
Salisbury on June 2, 1775.* Waightstill Avery, 
another who is said to have joined in the Declara- 
tion of Independence on the 2oth of May, was 
appointed " Attorney for the Crown," say the Salis- 
bury court records, on August 2, I775- 2 Every 
other participant at the famous meeting in Meck- 
lenburg whose attitude toward Great Britain is 

i Col. Rec. of N. C.i x., 5. Kennon was chairman of the Rowan com- 
mittee at all of its meetings before that of June I, 1775. It seems that 
through the influence of John Dunn, a Tory, he was not returned as a mem- 
ber at the election of February, 1775. His ability probably procured him an 
invitation to a seat in the meeting at Mecklenburg. 

1 Ibid. x.. 139. 

88 



"An Accumulation of Miracles " 89 

ascertained from contemporaneous records may 
also be taxed with this infirmity of pu rpose. 

It is very surprising that the records of the courts 
held at Charlotte between May 20, 1775, and July 
4, 1776, have been overlooked by writers who have 
sought to prove that Mecklenburg county was then 
severed from all political connection with Great 
Britain. The justices of the county courts of 
Mecklenburg during this period were Robert 
Harris, Abraham Alexander, Robert Irwin, Richard 
Barry, John Foard, Hezekiah Alexander, and Adam 
Alexander, and they sat in July and October, 1775, 
and in January, April, and July, 1776. Although 
these men are all said to have formally absolved 
themselves from allegiance to King George III. 
on the 2Oth of May, 1775, the minutes and dockets 
of their courts show that they administered justice 
in the King's name. The criminal dockets are 
uniformly marked " Crown Causes," and generally 
signed by three or more of these alleged " signers " 
of the Mecklenburg Declaration. The following 
is extracted from the minutes of the court held so 
late as July, 1776 : 

Joshua Jennings being cited to appear before the court, 
came and was bound in the sum of ^100. Henry Sadler his 
surity bound in the sum of ^50, to be void on condition that 
said Jennings keep the peace to all his Majesty's leige subjects 
and particularly to John Shields. 

Ordered by the court that the several dockets stand con- 
tinued from July sessions to October sessions, with all rules 
and orders thereon, viz : The tryal, execution, crown and 
appearance dockets as they were at January sessions 1776. 

Such entries upon the minutes and dockets of 



90 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

the courts of Mecklenburg were not discontinued 
until after July, 1776. When the county court rose 
in July the news of the passage of the Declaration 
of Independence at Philadelphia on the 4th of the 
month had not reached the justices, and they con- 
sequently provided for the hearing of pleas of the 
crown at the usual October session. That session 
was never held, however, as by that time the jus- 
tices had learned that they were no longer " his 
Majesty's leige subjects." On the page in the 
docket book in direct continuation from entries of 
three " New Crown Causes to January session, 
A. D. 1776" (meaning 1777), comes " State of 
North Carolina Causes to July session, 1 777." The 
promulgators of the Mecklenburg resolves of May 
31, 1775, declared all royal authority to be sus- 
pended, but not that their allegiance to the crown 
was dissolved. 1 

In the Provincial Congress which met at Hills- 
boro August 20, 1775, Mecklenburg county was 
represented by Thomas Polk, the prime mover of 
the alleged declaration, John McKnitt Alexander, 
John Phifer, Waightstill Avery, Samuel Martin, 
and James Houston, all reputed " signers" except 
the two last named. William Kennon took his 
seat as a delegate from Rowan. On the first day 
of its session the Congress appointed a committee 
to prepare a "Test" to be signed by all members. 2 

The facts concerning the records at Charlotte were obtained from Mr. 
A. S. Salley, Jr., of Columbia, S. C., and from Prof. John Spencer 
Bassett's report on North Carolina archives in the Annual Report of the 
American Historical Association for 1894, 609-611. 

8 Col. Rec. o/N. C, x., 169. 



" An Accumulation of Miracle" 9 1 

The " Test " was reported, approved, and signed on 
August 23d. It ran as follows : 

We the Subscribers professing our Allegiance to the King, 
and acknowledging the Constitutional executive power of Gov- 
ernment^ do solemnly profess, testifie and declare that we do 
absolutely believe that neither the Parliament of Great Brit- 
ain, nor any Member or Constituent Branch thereof, have a 
right to impose Taxes upon these Colonies to regulate the in 
ternal policy thereof ; and that all attempts by fraud or force 
to establish and exercise such Claims and powers are viola- 
tions of the peace and Security of the people and ought to be 
resisted to the utmost; and that the people of this province, 
singly and collectively, are bound by the Acts and resolutions of 
the Continental and the Provincial Congresses, because in both 
they are freely represented by persons chosen by themselves ; 
and we do solemnly and sincerely promise and engage, under 
the Sanction of virtue, Honor, and the Sacred love of Liberty 
and our Country, to maintain and Support all and every the 
Acts, Resolutions and Regulations, of the said Continental 
and Provincial Congresses, to the utmost of our power and 
abilities. In Testimony whereof, we have hereto set our 
Hands this 23d August 1775. 

To this 4< Test of Loyalty and Patriotism " the 
five men who are said to have pledged their mutual 
co-operation, their lives, their fortunes, and their 
sacred honor, on May 2oth, to maintain a de- 
claration of independence subscribed their names 
on August 23d. 1 

Thomas Polk and William Kennon were mem- 
bers of a committee appointed by the Congress to 
prepare a plan " for the Internal peace, order and 
safety " of the province, 2 the report of which was 

1 Col Rec. of N. C, x., 171-173. The original manuscript Journal 
containing their signatures to the test is in the Boston Pub. Lib. The test is 
here reproduced from it. 2 Tbid. % x, 175. 



92 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

considered and adopted September 10, 1775.* They 
recommended that a Provincial Council, a Committee 
of Safety in every district, and a committee in 
every county be established, and that every member 
of any of these bodies, every member of a future 
Provincial Congress, and every person who voted 
for members of any of these bodies should repeat 
and subscribe the above test. Independent Meck- 
lenburg county was not excepted. Wherever con- 
temporaneous records are extant we find that the 
test was actually subscribed. The Mecklenburg 
member in the Committee of Safety for the Sal- 
isbury district was Hezekiah Alexander, a puta- 
tive " signer " of the Mecklenburg Declaration. 2 
Waightstill Avery, as a member of the Provincial 
Council, again subscribed the test on October 19, 
1775, December 18, 1775, and February 28, 1776, 
and John Phifer, John McKnitt Alexander, and 
Robert Irwin, still another " signer," subscribed it in 
the Provincial Congress as late as April 4, 1 776. 8 

On September 4, 1775, the Congress declared, 
after due consideration, that Franklin's plan for a 
confederation of the colonies was " not at present 
Eligible," and "That the present Association ought 
to be further relied on for bringing about a recon- 
ciliation with the parent State, and a further Con- 
federacy ought only to be adopted in Case of the 
last necessity." 4 The Articles of American As- 
sociation, of October, 1774, had been and were still 
being signed by all persons under penalty of being 

1 Col. Xec. of N. C., x., 208-214. * Ibid., x., 215. 

' Ibid., x., 284,349, 470, &Q2. 4 Ibid., x., 175, 192. 



" An Accumulation of Miracles " 93 

shut off from intercourse with those friendly to the 
cause of the colonies. l The Congress resolved that 
the new local committees that were to be formed 
should superintend their observance. a These ar- 
ticles acknowledged allegiance to the British 
Crown, yet the following document shows that 
they were signed in Mecklenburg, as in other parts 
of the province, long after May, 1 775 : 

NORTH CAROLINA, MECKLENBURG COUNTY, ) 

November 28, 1775. f 

These may certify to all whom they may concern, that 
the bearer hereof, William Henderson, is allowed here to 
be a true friend to liberty, and signed the Association. 

Certified by ABR'M ALEXANDER, Chairman 

of the Committee of P. S.* 

Here Abraham Alexander, who is said to have 
been chairman of the meeting at which independ- 
ence was declared in Mecklenburg on May 20, 
1775, testifies over his own signature five months 
later that one who professed to be a loyal subject 
of George III. was " allowed " in Mecklenburg " to 
be a true friend to liberty " ! 

On September 8, 1775, "Mr. [William] Hooper," 
reads the Journal of the Congress, 4 " laid before the 
house an Address to the Inhabitants of the British 
Empire ; and the same being read, was unanimously 

1 Col. Rec. of N. C., x., 125, 297, etc. * Ibid., x., 171, 213. 

8 State Pamphlet ; see Appendix. It may be noted here that the 
" Instructions for the Delegates of Mecklenburg County" which are printed 
under date of September i, 1775, in Foote's Sketchts of AT. C. t 70-73, 
Wheeler's History of N. C., ii., 260-262, and the Col. Rec. of N. C., x., 
239-242, should bear the date of September I, 1776. D. L. Swain to B. 
J. Lossing, Bancroft, MSS., N. Y. Pub. Lib. Swain had the original MS. 

4 Col. Rec. of N. C, x., 201-202. 



94 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

received, . . . ' In this address, drafted by an 
alleged supporter of the Mecklenburg Declaration 
of Independence, five alleged authors of that 
Declaration united with their associates in the 
Provincial Congress in declaring : 

To enjoy the Fruits of our own honest Industry ; to call 
that our own which we earn with the labour of our hands and 
the sweat of our Brows ; to regulate that internal policy by 
which we and not they [the British ministers] are to be 
affected ; these are the mighty Boons we ask. And Traitors, 
Rebels, and every harsh appellation that Malice can dictate 
or the Virulence of language express, are the returns which 
we receive to the most humble Petitions and earnest sup- 
plications. We have been told that Independence is our object; 
that we seek to shake off all connection with the parent State. 
Cruel Suggestion ! Do not all our professions, all our actions y 
uniformly contradict this ? 

We again declare, and we invoke that Almighty Being who 
searches the Recesses of the human heart and knows our most 
secret Intentions, that it is our most earnest wish and prayer to 
be restored with the other United Colonies, to the State in 
which we and they were placed before the year 1763, . . . 

But the authors of the Mecklenburg resolves of 
May 31, 1775, could consistently give their assent 
to the address. The address continues : 

Whenever we have departed from the Forms of the Con- 
stitution, our own safety and self-preservation have dictated the 
expedient ; ... As soon as the cause of our Fears and Ap- 
prehensions are removed, with joy will we return these powers 
to their regular channels ; and such Institutions formed from 
mere necessity, shall end with that necessity that created 
them. . . . This declaration we hold forth as a Testimony 
of Loyalty to our Sovereign, and Affection to our parent 
State, and as a sincere earnest of our present and future 
intentions. 



" An Accumulation of Miracles " 95 

Dr. George W. Graham, the leading exponent 
of the arguments for the authenticity of the Meck- 
lenburg Declaration, would explain away some of 
these inconsistent acts and declarations of its al- 
leged authors by admitting the insincerity of their 
professions. 1 He argues that signers of the Meck- 
lenburg Declaration could consistently sign the 
test adopted by the Hillsboro Congress, because, 
" Saving the first two lines, probably thrown in for 
the sake of the scrupulous or disaffected members 
of the Provincial Congress, this test contains an 
emphatic denial of all authority of Parliament over 
the Colonies," and, " as the last paragraph of the 
test, like the codicil to a will, annulled all conflict- 
ing clauses, the delegates, as their proceedings 
prove, considered themselves bound only by that." 
Not by the greatest stretch of imagination can the 
test be thus interpreted. It denies only the right 
of a Parliament in which the colonies were not 
represented (according to the American theory of 
representation) " to impose taxes upon these colonies 
to regulate the internal policy thereof " ; and it con- 
tains nothing which conflicts with a profession of 
allegiance to the King and an acknowledgment of 
the constitutional executive power of his govern- 
ment. Like the address to the inhabitants of 
Great Britain, which elaborately defines the posi- 
tion of the Hillsboro Congress, it enunciates the 
great principle for which the colonies were con- 
tending, and in contending for which, even when 
forced to take up arms and to assume control of 

1 The Mecklenburg Declaration, 63-79. 



96 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

civil affairs, the popular leaders considered the 
British ministers, not themselves, to be disloyal 
to the British Constitution. But, failing to take 
into account the known sentiments which prompted 
men outside of North Carolina to like actions, 
Dr. Graham holds that the assembling of the 
Hillsboro Congress in disobedience to a furious 
proclamation of Governor Martin, its orders for 
the enlistment of troops, and its adoption of other 
measures " inimical," he says, " to the King and 
Parliament," show that that body was composed 
of men who had cast off their allegiance to the 
King, in spite of their professions to the contrary, 
and that it was therefore a proper place for 
"signers" of the Mecklenburg Declaration. He 
claims also that when the Hillsboro Congress 
adopted its plan "for the internal peace, order 
and safety" of the province, it entirely severed 
North Carolina from the mother country. For 
the same reasons, the American Tories, the British 
Government, and the older British historians treated 
the course of the Continental Congress as a piece 
of dissimulation. But the sincerity of the pro- 
fessions of the popular party may be tested by 
statements of men of sterling integrity too nu- 
merous and too familiar to be cited here. " When 
the Barons at Runnymede, surrounded by their 
armed retainers, wrested from King John the Great 
Charter, they meant not to renounce their allegi- 
ance, but simply to preserve the old government. 
. . . So the popular leaders, in their attitude of 
armed resistance, were loyal to what they conceived 



" An Accumulation of Miracles " 97 

to be essential to American liberty. " 1 We have 
not to rely upon public professions of the 
popular party in North Carolina to prove that 
there, as in the other colonies, the idea of in- 
dependence was of sudden growth ; that the old 
affection for the mother country was not at once 
effaced by civil war, and that reconciliation was 
the aim of the Hillsboro Congress. The following 
statements of men who had an intimate knowledge 
of the affairs of the province are proof of all this, 
and a new "accumulation of miracles" for the 
advocates of the authenticity of the Mecklenburg 
Declaration. 

On July 31, 1775, two months after the alleged 
promulgation of the Mecklenburg Declaration of In- 
dependence, " a gentleman in North Carolina and 
one of the Delegates of the Congress," apparently 
Joseph Hewes, wrote in a private letter from 
Edenton 2 : 

We do not want to be independent ; we want no revolution, 
unless a change of Ministry and measures would be deemed 
such. We are loyal subjects to our present most gracious 
Sovereign in support of whose crown and dignity we would 
sacrifice our lives, and willingly launch out every shilling of 
our property, he only defending our liberties. . . . We can vouch 
for the loyalty of every one in this part of the province. 

The writer was probably unwilling to vouch for 
the loyalty of every one in the province because of 
the independent spirit of the Mecklenburg resolves 
of May 31, 1775. He certainly had not heard that 

1 Frothingham, Rise of the Republic, 438. 
* Col. Rec. of N. C., x., 123. 

7 



98 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

the leading county of western North Carolina had 
formally declared independence. 

On September 17, 1775, Thomas McKnight, a 
lukewarm friend to the American cause, if not a 
Tory, wrote 1 from his home in Belville, N. C, to 
Samuel Johnston, President of the Hillsboro Con- 
gress, which had risen a week previously, and 
enclosed extracts from an intercepted letter of 
John Adams to Joseph Warren. 

Should you however believe the letter to be genuine, as I 
firmly do [he wrote], it may incline you to examine the truth 
of my suspicions, that there is, and has been from the be- 
ginning of the dispute, a fixed design in some peoples breasts 
to throw off every connection with G. [reat] B. [ritain] and to 
act for the future as totally independant ; now however suit- 
able this may be to the Northern provinces, I cannot think it 
adapted to our circumstances but notwithstanding I am con- 
vinced no such designs are harboured in this province ', I cannot 
help thinking we are gradually and step by step drawn in to 
second them as effectually as if we had been originally 
concerned in the plan. 

Here was a man of prominence in North 
Carolina politics who had not heard as late as 
September, 1775, that one person in the pro- 
vince, much less a whole county, even desired 
independence ! 

In a letter to Lord Dartmouth, dated October 16, 
1775, Governor Josiah Martin expressed his pleasure 
in seeing that there was " temper and moderation 
enough" in the Hillsboro Congress to reject for 
the present Franklin's plan of a confederation of 
united colonies, and stated that this paper " like 

1 Col. Rec. of N. C 1 ., x., 249-251. 



" An Accumulation of Miracles " 99 

many of the publications of the Continental Con- 
gress has so much of the appearance of system and 
breathes so strongly the spirit of independence that 
with the best inclinations to construe the designs 
of the Leaders of American Politics in the most 
favorable and liberal manner it is difficult for the 
most impartial and unprejudiced mind to believe 
their uniform professions and declarations against 
any views of that nature, it is nevertheless far from 
me and my intentions to judge them. Heaven 
knows what are the real views of them at large / " 
Is it possible that Mecklenburg county declared 
independence in May, 1775, and that the people of 
the adjacent counties approved that declaration, 
if, five months later, the royal governor of North 
Carolina was ignorant of the views of the people of 
the province on the subject of independence ? Gov- 
ernor Martin said that the people seemed "generally 
united on the points of opposition to Britain." * 

As late as February n, 1776, after the idea of 
independence had taken root in the colonies, Joseph 
Hewes, one of the North Carolina delegates to the 
Continental Congress, did not know whether his 
constituents had yet given up hope of reconciliation 
with the mother country. On that date he wrote 
from Philadelphia to Samuel Johnston in North 
Carolina, and sent as a "Curiosity" a copy of 
Thomas Paine's Common Sense, advocating a separ- 
ation from Great Britain, which had been published 
in Philadelphia about a month before. He said that 
he and his colleagues from North Carolina sent 

1 Col. Rec. of N. C, x., 268-270. 



ioo The Mecklenburg Declaration 

no copies of the pamphlet by a wagon of military 
supplies destined for the province because they 
did not know how the people there " might relish 
independency. " 1 

James Iredell of Edenton, an associate justice of 
the Supreme Court of the United States during 
Washington's administration, was an eyewitness 
of the course of events in North Carolina during 
the Revolutionary period. His correspondence 
was courted by the ablest men of the province, yet 
it contains not a word of so important an event as 
a declaration of independence by Mecklenburg 
county. From an essay dated June, 1776, which is 
believed to have had a very extended circulation 
among prominent men of North Carolina, pas- 
sing in manuscript from hand to hand, we ex- 
tract the following testimony of Iredell 2 : 

I avoid the unhappy subject of the day, independency. There 
was a time very lately, within ray recollection, when neither 
myself nor any person I know, could hear the name but with 
horror. I know it is a favorite argument against us, and that 
on which the proceedings of Parliament are most plausibly 
founded, that this has been our aim since the beginning, and 
all other attempts were a cloak and disguise to this principal 
one. If this supposition had been well founded, and a desire 
of redressing the grievances we complained of been entertained 
by government, they might immediately, by granting these, 
have detected and disappointed the other, or covered us with 
eternal disgrace, if we avowed it. But it is sufficient to say, 
our professions have been all solemnly to the contrary ; we 
have never taken any one step which really indicated such a view; ' 

Col. Rec. ofN. C., x., 447 

* McRee's Life and Correspondence of James Iredell, i, 321322. 

8 The italics are the present author's. 



" An Accumulation of Miracles " 101 

its suggestion has no better foundation than mere suspicion, 
which might countenance any falsehood whatever, and every 
man in America knows that this is one of the most egregious 
falsehoods ever any people were duped with. 

In another manuscript pamphlet, addressed to 
the King of Great Britain, bearing date, March, 1777, 
Iredell again replied to the above charge as follows: * 

I do aver the charge to be false, and dare appeal to the great 
Searcher of all hearts for the truth of my present declaration. 
I have resided many years in America ; I have had the honor 
of a personal intimacy with several of the most considerable 
characters, and firmest patriots in it ; I have had many interest- 
ing and confidential conversations with them upon this great 
and affecting subject. I know well the general sentiments of 
the people at large. When this unhappy controversy first be- 
gan, and until very near the time when the arbitrary obstinacy of 
your conduct left us no other alternative than indefinite submission a 
to your will, or unreserved resistance to your power, I never 
heard a man speak on the subject of independence, who did not 
speak of it with aborrence and indignation, and place the hope 
of all his felicity in a happy and honorable reconcilation with 
Great Britain. 

This completes our study of the Mecklenburg 
Declaration of Independence in the light of con- 
temporaneous testimony. We have learned that 
researches during a period of nearly a century have 
failed to produce a single item of contemporaneous 
evidence of so remarkable an event as a declaration 
of independence by Mecklenburg county on the 
2Oth of May, 1775. Voluminous contemporaneous 
records are not merely silent concerning it; they 
tell us that for several months after the date on 

* McRee's Life and Correspondence of James Iredell, i, 344. 

* This passage is not italicised in the original. 



102 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

which the declaration is alleged to have been pro- 
claimed, amid the joyous shouts of assembled 
thousands, there was not even a conscious striv- 
ing for independence perceptible in North Carolina. 
The statements of the royal governor, Josiah Mar- 
tin, and of other well-informed men, prove that 
they knew nothing of the supposed declaration of 
independence. The subsequent acts and declara- 
tions of reputed authors and supporters of the 
declaration are inconsistent with it, and if the 
document be authentic, they fix an ineffaceable 
stigma to their characters. Our investigations 
have also revealed the fact that a document similar 
in many of its terms to the document of May 20, 
1775, and easily mistaken for a declaration of in- 
dependence, was adopted in Mecklenburg county 
on May 3 1, 1775. This document is entirely incon- 
sistent with the declaration of eleven days earlier. 
It was published in every city in the Carolinas 
where there were newspapers, copied into New 
York and Boston newspapers, and suppressed in 
Philadelphia, because it was " premature," Gover- 
nor Martin virtually called it a declaration of inde- 
pendence. Our researches have shown that the 
most significant facts and circumstances in the 
story of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Indepen- 
dence are peculiar to the May 3ist resolves, and 
that all the evidence which is cited in support 
of the authenticity of the Mecklenburg Declara- 
tion should therefore be understood as relating to 
the May 3ist resolves. At every step in our ex- 
amination of contemporaneous testimony we have 



" An Accumulation of Miracles " 103 

found it to conflict with the testimony of those who 
say, on the strength of memory, hearsay, or as- 
sumption, that Mecklenburg county declared inde- 
pendence on the 20th of May, 1775. 



CHAPTER VIII 

ORIGIN OF THE MYTH 

HOWEVER manifest may be the inconsistency of a 
declaration of independence by the people of Meck- 
lenburg county on the 2Oth of May, 1775, with their 
resolves of May 31, 1775, and contemporaneous 
testimony, the time-honored and patriotic belief in 
the event that prevails in North Carolina will never 
be entirely dispelled until the common error of 
many men in believing that they heard a declaration 
of independence read at Charlotte in 1775 is more 
satisfactorily explained, and the existence of sev- 
eral documents purporting to contain the text of 
that declaration, which are very unlike the docu- 
ment which we affirm to be their prototype, is 
accounted for. An attempt will be made to trace 
the origin and genesis of the erroneous belief that 
the Mecklenburg resolves of May 31, 1775, consti- 
tuted a declaration of independence ; to show that 
a quarter century after their promulgation a mem- 
ber of the body that adopted them endeavored to 
recall their date and salient features ; and that from 
the rough notes he jotted down sprang every 
version of the supposititious paper of May 2oth. 

104 



Origin of the Myth 105 

The nature of the May 3ist resolves and their 
relation to the political situation in the colonies at 
the time of their adoption have been treated. All 
British authority and forms of government were 
declared to be suspended, and a county govern- 
ment set up until another should be provided by 
the Provincial or Continental Congresses, or until 
Great Britain should abandon her arbitrary policy 
towards the colonies. It was ordained that officers 
appointed under the resolves should hold and exer- 
cise their authority by virtue of popular choice and 
"independent of the crown of Great Britain and 
former constitution of this province," and that 
whatever person should thereafter receive a com- 
mission from the crown, or attempt to exercise any 
such commission theretofore received, should be 
deemed " an enemy to his country," and summarily 
dealt with. This was in some degree a declaration 
of independence what might be termed a declara- 
tion of temporary independence. No profession of 
allegiance or the slightest indication of a desire for 
reconciliation with the mother country, which ap- 
pear in nearly all other contemporaneous papers of 
its kind, are to be found in the Mecklenburg mani- 
festo ; and the clause implying a possibility of a 
future adjustment of political relations is itself an 
opprobrious affront to British authority. So inde- 
pendent in spirit are these resolves that from the 
time when Peter Force announced their discovery, 
in 1838, to the present day, they have, after due 
consideration, been repeatedly called a declaration 
of independence. Peter Force describes them as 



io6 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

" a general Declaration of Independence of all the 
Colonies." 1 William H. Foote says, in \\\s Sketches 
of North, Carolina, that in the May 3ist resolves 
" independence is asserted in language as strong as 
in the paper of the 2Oth." 2 Foote devotes a large 
portion of his volume to the Mecklenburg Declara- 
tion. An article in the New York Times of Feb- 
ruary 2, 1853, signed " North Carolina," which 
evinces a familiarity with the question under discus- 
sion, takes this view of the matter : " That the 
patriots of Mecklenburg did make a formal Decla- 
ration of Independence in May, 1775, no fair man 
can doubt. The only question is, was it done by 
the paper of the 2Oth of May or by that of the 
30th?" Benson J. Lossing prints the May 3ist 
resolves in his Pictorial Field Book of the Revolu- 
tion as the " Mecklenburg Declaration of Independ- 
ence." 3 After a review of the evidence cited in 
support of the paper of May 2Oth, he concludes 
that its genuineness is " a question of minor his- 
torical importance, since the great fact is established 
beyond cavil, that more than a year previous to 
the promulgation of the Federal Declaration the 
people of Mecklenburg declared their entire inde- 
pendence of the British crown, and, in pursuance of 
that declaration, organized a civil government." 
John H. Wheeler, the North Carolina historian, 
whose writings on the mooted question cover a 
period of forty years, said in one of his last con- 

1 Daily National Intelligencer, December 18, 1838. 

2 Sketches ofN. C. (1846), 208. 
8 1852 ed. f ii, 617-623. 



Origin of the Myth 107 

tributions to the history of the subject : 1 " Both 
without doubt were passed. Either settles the fact 
that the people of Mecklenburg boldly pronounced 
their independence in advance of any other State, 
and more than a year in advance of the United 
States." A recent history of Mecklenburg county 
claims that some writers " have not noted the fact 
that the Declaration of May 20 declared the inde- 
pendence of Mecklenburg county, and that the Re- 
solves of May 31 proclaimed the independence of 
the United Colonies." 2 One of the best histories 
of North Carolina says 3 : " The substance of the 
whole controversy touching the authenticity of the 
Mecklenburg Declaration is then, after all, at best 
but frivolous. If they did not renounce the King 
and his agents on May 2oth, they certainly did on 
the 3 1 st." Romulus M. Saunders, a diligent inves- 
tigator, came to the same conclusion. " Such, too," 
he wrote in 1852,* "is the opinion of an eminent 
American author, Jared Sparks, who says he 'does 
not consider the point (as to the authenticity of the 
resolutions of the 2oth May,) as of much importance, 
as the last resolves (3ist May) do not differ much 
in substance and spirit from the other paper.' ' 
George Ban croft describes the circumstances attend- 
ing the adoption of the May 3ist resolves, apply- 
ing the story of the igth and 2oth of May to those 

1 Our Living and Our Dead, i., 426 (January, 1875). 

9 D. A. Tompkins : History of Mecklenburg County and the City of 
Charlotte from 1740 to fgoj, ii., 8. 

*J. W. Moore: History of N. C., i., 189-190. 

4 Address delivered before the two literary societies of Wake Forest College, 
June 0, 1852, by Hon. fiomulus M. Saunders, 28-29. 



io8 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

resolves, and says, 1 " Thus was Mecklenburg county 
in North Carolina separated from the British Em- 
pire, . . ." One of the most striking illustra- 
tions of misapprehension as to the import of the 
May 3ist resolves is afforded by the action of 
public-spirited citizens of Philadelphia, who pub- 
lished them in a handsomely-printed broadside in 
1875, i n commemoration of the centennial anniver- 
sary of their adoption, as " The First Declaration of 
American Independence." 2 So independent inspirit 
are these resolves that the advocates of the document 
of May 2oth have long contended that they might 
well have followed a declaration of independence. 

We have seen that the Mecklenburg resolves of 
May 3ist, 1775, anticipated the advice of the Con- 
tinental Congress to New Hampshire (November 
3, 1775), South Carolina (November 4, 1775), and 
Virginia (December 4, 1775), to form temporary 
local governments. Some idea of how Mecklen- 
burgers regarded their precursive step during the 
thirteen months before July 4, 1776, may be in- 
ferred from public opinion concerning this advice 
at the time it was given. In each instance Congress 
recommended only that these colonies " establish 
such a form of government as, in their judgment, 
will best produce the happiness of the people, and 
most effectually secure peace and good order in the 
province, during the continuance of the present dis- 
pute between Great Britain and the colonies? 3 But 

1 History of the U. S. t vii., 371. 

" X " (Prof. Charles Phillips) in the N. Y. Evening Post, May 19, 1875. 

* Journals of the Continental Congress, Hi., 319, 326, 403. 



Origin of the Myth 109 

the formation of local governments was looked upon 
by Whigs and Tories as equivalent to revolution and 
a step towards a declaration of independence. 1 It 
roused into activity the opponents of independence. 
Shortly after it was given the assemblies of Penn- 
sylvania, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and 
Delaware instructed their delegates in the Con- 
tinental Congress to oppose independence. " We 
strictly enjoin you," said the Pennsylvania Assembly 
(November 9, 1775), "that you, in behalf of this 
colony, dissent from and utterly reject any proposi- 
tions, should such be made, that may cause or lead 
to a separation from our mother country or a change 
of the form of this government." The N ew J ersey 
Assembly used nearly the same language, including 
the phrase respecting a change in the form of the 
government of the colony. 2 When the advice to 
form a temporary local government reached New 
Hampshire, it was inferred that the Continental 
Congress was in favor of independence, and the 
delegates from the town of Portsmouth to the Pro- 
vincial Congress of New Hampshire were instructed 
by their constituents to oppose the formation of a 
local government on the ground that it would fur- 
nish their enemies " with arguments to persuade 
the good people there that we are aiming at in- 
dependency, which we totally disavow." 3 In the 
Provincial Congress of South Carolina, William 
Henry Drayton, the president, spoke of the recom- 

1 Frothingham : Rise of the Republic ; 448. 
8 Ibid., 465-467. 
*., 467,493. 



no The Mecklenburg Declaration 

mendation of the Continental Congress as " per- 
mission granted to colonies to erect forms of gov- 
ernment independent of and in opposition to the 
regal authority." Of the action of South Carolina 
on this recommendation, David Ramsay, an eye- 
witness, wrote : " The formation of an independent 
constitution had so much the appearance of an 
eternal separation from a country by a reconcilia- 
tion with which many yet hoped for a return of 
ancient happiness, that a great part of the Provin- 
cial Congress opposed the measure. The Act of 
Parliament of December 21, throwing the colonies 
out of protection, turned the scale." * In Virginia 
also the advice of Congress in December, 1 775, to 
form a government was regarded as being in 
the direction of independence, if not independence 
itself, and was not immediately acted upon. 2 

Since intelligent critics of our own day, with the 
document itself before them, have interpreted the 
May 3ist resolves as a declaration of independence ; 
since all concede that it was such in effect, and 
since the position it took was regarded elsewhere 
in 1775 as equivalent to independence, it is easily 
understood how the people of Mecklenburg could 
believe, after the colonies had formally renounced 
allegiance to the British crown, that they had been 
the first to take that step. They recalled the great 
fact that they had been first to cut loose from 
dependence on the mother country, and not the 
form of the instrument by which it was done. 

1 Frothingham : Rise of the Republic, 494. 
., 508. 



Origin of the Myth 1 1 1 

From the moment that they declared that "the 
Provincial Congress of each province, under the 
direction of the Great Continental Congress, is in- 
vested with all legislative and executive powers 
within their respective provinces; and that no 
other legislative or executive power does, or can 
exist, at this time, in any of these colonies," British 
law and authority ceased forever in Mecklenburg 
county. The result was the same as if absolute 
independence had been declared. It would, indeed, 
have been remarkable if many men in Mecklenburg 
who were not particular in the use of terms, in- 
cluding some members of the committee that 
adopted them, did not come to call the May 3ist 
resolves a declaration of independence. The pro- 
visional character of the document is indicated by 
little more than a brief resolution in a series of 
twenty, and nearly all of the aged witnesses who 
testified in later years that it was a declaration of 
independence heard it read but once, from the steps 
of the court-house. If Governor Martin, like the 
writers of later days, failed to note their provisional 
character in 1775, we may be sure that many men 
of less critical acumen in Mecklenburg failed to 
remember it after July 4, 1776. Governor Martin's 
public denunciation of the resolves as "most traitor- 
ously declaring the entire dissolution of the laws, 
government, and constitution of this country, and 
setting up a system of rule and regulation repug- 
nant to the laws and subversive of his Majesty's 
government," was sufficient in itself to promote 
popular misapprehension. Another potent source 



ii2 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

of error was the knowledge that the resolves had 
been too far in advance of public sentiment to re- 
ceive the sanction of the Continental Congress, a 
fact which was remembered years afterwards by 
men who forgot nearly all other details ; for many 
survivors of Revolutionary days erroneously be- 
lieved in later years as even John Adams, it would 
seem, believed in 1819 that "the genuine sense 
of America" was for independence as early as 
May, 1775. Finally there entered the elements of 
local pride and patriotism to magnify the great 
event of 1775. 

In view of these facts, we may reasonably pre- 
sume that after July 4, 1776, the May 3ist resolves 
were loosely called a declaration of independence 
by many persons, and that in the course of time, as 
their phraseology and terms were forgotten, and 
the number of their surviving authors diminished, 
they were looked back upon in Mecklenburg county 
generally, and to some extent in the surrounding 
section of country, as a formal declaration of inde- 
pendence. In the light of our study of the records 
of 1775 in their relation to the May 3ist resolves, 
and to the story of the " Mecklenburg Declaration 
of Independence," this supposition becomes a cer- 
tainty. But demonstration of the genesis of the 
myth is asked for. This may now be attained in 
some degree with the aid of several items of evi- 
dence dating from 1777 and onward, which the 
friends of the declaration of May 20, 1775, have 
lately unearthed, and which contain what they re- 
gard as explicit references to that document. In 



Origin of the Myth 113 

the absence of such records, it has heretofore been 
argued with much force that the Mecklenburg 
Declaration was never heard of prior to its publi- 
cation in 1819, which precipitated the century-old 
dispute. The newly-found evidence establishes 
the fact that, as early as 1 783, at least, persons in 
Mecklenburg county and the vicinity believed that 
independence was declared at Charlotte in 1775; 
but, standing by itself, it gives little or no help in 
determining the identity of the declaration referred 
to. It is a part of our duty to show only that if 
these records be genuine and refer to one of the 
manifestoes in question, the references would as 
easily or more aptly apply to the May 3ist resolves 
as to the alleged declaration of independence. 

The earliest indication of a declaration of inde- 
pendence by Mecklenburg county is contained in a 
poem which is said to have been written in 1777 
by Adam Brevard, a brother of Ephraim Brevard, 
the reputed author of the document of May 20, 1775. 
The original manuscript is said to have been once 
in the possession of David L. Swain, of North 
Carolina, who wrote to George Bancroft, March 18, 
1858, as follows: 1 

" There is no document which fixes with certainty 
the date of the first meeting in Mecklenburg, nor 
with the exception of a series of doggerel verses, 
which have recently come into my possession, is 
there any paper containing a a \_stc\ direct refer- 
ence to the subject, which I suppose to be of earlier 
date than Sept. 1800. . . . The poem to which I 

1 From the original letter in the Bancroft MSS., N. Y. Public Library. 



ii4 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

refer above, bears date 18 March 1777, extends 
through 260 lines, and is of unquestionable authen- 
ticity. It opens as follows : 

4 THE MECKLENBURG CENSOR 

'When Mecklenburgs fantastic rabble 
Renowned for censure, scold and gabble 
In Charlotte met in giddy council 
To lay the Constitutions ground-sill 
By choosing men both learned and wise 
Who clearly could with half shut eyes 
See mill-stones through or spy a plot 
Whether existed such or not 
Who always could at noon define 
Whether the sun or moon did shine 
And by philosophy tell whether 
It was dark or sunny weather 
And sometimes when their wits were nice 
Could well distinguish men from mice 
First to withdraw from British trust 
In Congress they the very first 
Their independence they declared.' 



This paper was lost, we believe, when Governor 
Swain's collections were scattered after his death 
in 1868. We have found no further mention of it 
in his correspondence and nothing which justifies 
the belief that he ever had the original poem or a 
genuine copy of it in his possession. The researches 
of Mr. A. S. Salley, Jr., secretary of the Histor- 
ical Commission of South Carolina, have brought 
to light what would seem to be conclusive evidence 
that the last three lines of the passage quoted above, 
which refer to a declaration of independence, did 
not belong to the original poem, but were fraud- 
ulently added by some early advocate of the au- 
thenticity of the Mecklenburg Declaration. In an 



Origin of the Myth 115 

article contributed to the Charleston Sunday News 
of April, 22, 1906, Mr. Salley reproduced from a 
manuscript which he found in the Charleston 
Library an apparently full copy of the poem and an 
explanatory preface by " The Editor," dated March 
30, 1777, with which it was first published. This 
copy was transcribed and annotated in 1777, by a 
resident of Mecklenburg county, of which fact the 
annotations bear indisputable internal evidence. It 
is entitled, " A Modern Poem by The Mecklenburg 
Censor, Published A. D. 1777," and has 246 lines. 
The first fourteen lines differ from the Swain copy, 
in several particulars of verbiage, and the poem 
does not contain the three all-important lines which 
appear next in order in the Swain copy, or anything 
that can be construed to have reference to events 
of May, 1775. The poem itself and the contempo- 
raneous introduction and footnotes, both of which 
evince an intimate knowledge of men and events 
in Mecklenburg county referred to by "The Censor," 
show that the whole semi-satirical piece dealt with 
an election which took place at Charlotte in No- 
vember, 1776, and that the three lines in question 
do not consist with the accompanying text. 1 

Whether or not the poem written by the " Meck- 
lenburg Censor," in 1777, did make the statement 

1 The lines of the poem unearthed by Mr. Salley which immediately 
follow the fourteenth line of the Swain copy are : 

(i) " Squire Subtle then to Sulky came, 
(a) Sulky a lawyer mean in fame. 

' Sulky,' he said, 'my friend, pray hear, 

* I Ve things important for your ear. 

* D 'y e mark yon silly rabble rout ? 



n6 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

that independence was declared in Mecklenburg 
county, it could not invalidate our contention that all 
such evidence should be understood as relating to 
the resolves of May 31, 1775. There is nothing in 
the passage quoted by Governor Swain to show that 
it had reference to the alleged declaration of May 
20, 1775, and not the May 3ist resolves. But we 
do not believe that the myth of the " Mecklenburg 
Declaration of Independence " gained so strong a 
foothold as early as 1777 as to be rendered into 
verse by the brother of the author of the May 3ist 
resolves. 

Into the assembly now they rush'd, 

With glowing hopes sublimely flush'd, 

Where Subtle thus harangued the crowd, " 

"The Mecklenburg Censor" describes the course pursued by Squire 
Subtle (Hezekiah Alexander) and Sulky (Waightstill Avery), aided by 
Quirk (John McKnitt Alexander), to gain election to the Provincial Congress 
by the " fantastic rabble " assembled in Charlotte, and concludes with advice 
to his countrymen to choose better representatives. The footnotes are a key 
to the characters and the action of the piece, and refer to the election as 
having taken place "last November." "The Editor "say sin his introduction, 
which is dated March 30, 1777, and addressed "To Electors of Mecklenburg," 
that the poem " came some time ago by accident " into his hands. "The 
Censor," he says, "ridicules the confused and unthinking conduct of the 
freemen of Mecklenburg at the election held last November with a severity 
that I thought unjustifiable, until I saw that the same spirit of insipid indif- 
ference prevailed at our last election, held the loth day of March." The 
poem was therefore in his hands before March 10, 1777, and the Swain copy, 
if its accredited date (March 18, 1777) be correct, could not have been the 
original. It is likely that the Swain paper was prepared (by a man of 
Swain's time) from the published poem of 246 lines bearing the date of 
March 30, 1777, and that Swain, when writing to Bancroft on March 18, 
1858, inadvertently dated the passage which he quoted March 18, 1777, 
and roughly calculated the number of lines in the piece to be 260. He 
called his letter a " very hasty and almost illegible communication." " The 
Editor" of " A Modern Poem" goes onto say that " The Censor" also dis- 
approves of the men chosen to represent Mecklenburg in the General 
Assembly, and that the "very particular instructions" given them, "by which 



Origin of the Myth 

What is considered by the Mecklenburg claim- 
ants to be one of the most valuable pieces of evi- 
dence of the supposed declaration of independence 
was discovered in September, 1904, by Mr. O. J. 
Lehman, of Bethania, N. C. Among the archives 
of the Moravian church at that place which con- 
tain carefully-kept records written in German script 
by the most learned men of the Moravian Brother- 
hood, covering the period from 1755 to the present 
day Mr. Lehman came across a manuscript of 
forty pages, in pamphlet form, bearing on its cover 
the title : 

" Bruchstueck, | Aufsaz von den Vorkommenhei- 
ten | waehrend dem Revolutions-Kriege | welche 
einen Bezug | auf die Wachau | hatten | bis Ende 

1779." 

our Representatives must abide or do nothing," indicate that the electors 
themselves disapproved of their choice. From these remarks and from the 
persons mentioned in the poem as having been elected by the " giddy 
council," it is clearly evident that the election of November, 1776, which 
is ridiculed, took place immediately before the instructions to the delegates 
from Mecklenburg to the Provincial Congress of November, 1776, which 
are printed in the Colonial Records of N. C. (vol. x., p. 870 a), were agreed 
to "At a general Conference of the inhabitants of Mecklenburg assembled 
at the Court-house on the first of November, 1776, for the express purpose 
of drawing up instructions for the present Representatives in Congress." 
This paper begins: " You are chosen by the inhabitants of this county to 
serve them in Congress or General Assembly for one year and they have 
agreed to the following Instructions which you are to observe with the strict- 
est regard." The instructions contain an elaborate outline of a Constitu- 
tion and Bill of Rights for the new state of North Carolina. We conclude, 
therefore, that " When Mecklenburg's fantastic rabble" met at Charlotte, 

" To lay the Constitution's ground-sill, 
By choosing men most learn'd and wise," 

they assembled to choose delegates to the Provincial Congress which met at 
Halifax, November 12, 1776, and formed the Constitution of North. 



n8 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

This English translation is : " Fragment, Record 
of the events during the Revolutionary War which 
had a reference to Wachovia to the end of 1779." 

This historical sketch opens with the events of 
the year 1775, and the chronicle for that year closes 
with the following passage : 

Ich kan zu Ende des i n$sten Jahres nicht unangemerkt 
lassen, dasz schon im Sommer selbigen Jahres, dasz ist im May, 
Juny, oder July, die County Mecklenburg in Nord Carolina 

Carolina, and to draw up instructions for those delegates. The lines which 
say that independence was declared at this meeting recite a falsehood. 

In his recent book on the Mecklenburg Declaration (p. 30), Dr. George 
W. Graham claims that "The genuineness of the ' Censor ' is vouched for by 
Wheeler's History of North Carolina, Lyman Draper's manuscript in the 
Thwait Library, and Hon. David L. Swain, then president of the Univer- 
sity of North Carolina, in whose possession the original poem was at the 
time of his death in 1868." None of the authorities cited by Graham have 
afforded us any proof of the genuineness of Swain's copy of the poem. 
Wheeler's History of N. C. merely says (ii, 239) that Adam Brevard "wrote 
a piece called the * Mecklenburg Censor,' full of wit and humor." Draper's 
manuscript work against the authenticity of the Mecklenburg Declaration, 
{which is in the Library of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, of 
which Reuben G. Thwaites is secretary and superintendent) contains no 
stronger foundation for Dr. Graham's assertions than a copy of Swain's 
letter of March 18, 1857, to Bancroft, from which we have quoted the 
pertinent passage. Swain does not say in this letter that he had the original 
poem or a paper in the handwriting of Adam Brevard, although he believed 
his paper to be " authentic"; and no other letter of his that refers to it has 
ever been produced. Brevard was a schoolboy at Charlotte in the autumn 
of 1776, and a blacksmith after the war. Later he studied law. From 
this and from his narrative in Wheeler's Reminiscences of N. C., 241-243, 
it seems doubtful if he had either literary ability or knowledge of the times 
sufficient to have enabled him to write the poem. 

A strange fiction about Adam Brevard was published a few years before 
this poem came into Swain's hands. Its author claimed that Adam Brevard 
told him that he wrote the Mecklenburg Declaration for his brother 
Ephraim, and took the Westminster Confession as his guide. Later he 
said that Adam Brevard wrote it as the amanuensis of his brother. See 
the Presbyterian Magazine, Feb., 1852, ii, 75-76; National Intelligencer, 
Nov. 6, 1857; True Witness (New Orleans), May 26, 1860; No. Amer, 
Rev., Apr., 1874; Mag. of Amer. Hist., xxi, 232. 



Origin of the Myth 119 

sich fuer so frey u. independent von England declarirtc, u. 
solche Einrichtung zur Verwaltung der Geseze unter sich 
machte, als jamalen der Continental Congress hernach ins 
Ganze gethan. Dieser Congress aber sahe dieses Verfahren 
als zu fruehzeitig an. 

The italicised words are written in English script. 
The English translation is : 

I cannot leave unmentioned at the end of the 17 75th year 
that already in the summer of this year, that is in May, June, 
or July, the County of Mecklenburg in North Carolina declared 
itself free and independent of England, and made such arrange- 
ments for the administration of the laws among themselves, as 
later the Continental Congress made for all. This Congress, 
however, considered these proceedings premature. 

The date and authorship of this paper, which 
unfortunately lacks both date and signature, have 
been established by Miss Adelaide L. Fries, of 
Winston-Salem, N. C. In an article published in 
The Wachovia Moravian oi April, 1906, Miss Fries 
shows that the record was written at Salem in the 
autumn of 1783 by Traugott Bagge, a merchant 
and man of affairs in the town during the Revolu- 
tionary War. 1 

Unfortunately Traugott Bagge does not so de- 
scribe the declaration to which he refers that it may 
be readily identified. But if it be admitted that a be- 
lief gained currency in Mecklenburg county and the 

1 Miss Fries's excellent paper was also published in the Charlotte Observer 
of April 15, 1906. The material parts were reprinted in the North Amer- 
ican Review for July, 1906. Facsimile reproductions of the Moravian 
record will be found in Harper's Weekly for July 7, 1906 (L, No. 2585), 
and in the Charlotte Daily Observer of December 18, 1905, and May 20, 
1906. 



i2o The Mecklenburg Declaration 

vicinity as early as 1783 that the May 3ist resolves 
were a declaration of independence, his recollec- 
tions must be understood as relating to them. 
After a lapse of eight years he could not say with 
certainty in what month the declaration to which 
he referred was made, and did not recollect that in 
spirit and in form it bore a striking resemblance to 
the then well-known Declaration of July 4, 1776. 
The one significant fact which was impressed upon 
his memory was that, after declaring independence, 
Mecklenburg county " made such arrangements 
for the administration of the laws among them- 
selves as later the Continental Congress made for 
all," and that the Continental Congress then " con- 
sidered these proceedings premature." The only 
measures taken by the Continental Congress before 
July 4, 1776, respecting " administration of the 
laws " in the colonies were the recommendations to 
form local governments given to New Hampshire, 
South Carolina, and Virginia, anticipated by the 
May 3ist resolves, and the resolution of May 15, 
1776, which "recommended to the respective as- 
semblies and conventions of the United Colonies, 
where no government sufficient to the exigencies 
of their affairs have been hitherto established, to 
adopt such government as shall, in the opinion of 
the representatives of the people, best conduce to 
the happiness and safety of their constituents 
in particular, and America in general." 1 The 
May 3ist resolves took substantially the position 
of the Continental Congress on May 15, 1776. 

1 Journals of the Continental Congress, iv., 342, 357~358. 



Origin of the Myth 1 2 1 

When Mecklenburg proposed it a year before, 
"Congress considered these proceedings premature.'* 
There are a few old deeds on file in the court- 
house in Charlotte which have been adduced as 
evidence that Mecklenburg declared independence 
in 1775. They were recorded during and imme- 
diately after the Revolutionary War, when it was 
customary to recite the date of the execution of 
deeds from "American Independence," or from 
" the independence of America," similar to the 
former custom of dating them " in the reign 
of George the Third." Three deeds are in 
Charlotte which seem to reckon the time of " our 
independence" from 1775, and one which dates 
" the independence of the State of North Caro- 
lina " from the same year. The earliest of these 
four, which are cited in Dr. George W. Graham's 
work on the Mecklenburg Declaration, 1 reads : 
"This indenture made this J3th day of February, 
1779, and in the fourth year of our independence." 
A few persons of strong local pride may have dated 
their deeds from what they remembered as Meck- 
lenburg's declaration of independence, but this 
would have been likely to excite doubts in other 
counties or in other states as to whether they were 
correctly dated. Moreover, even in the adjoining 
county of Rowan, Traugott Bagge, a merchant 
and man of affairs, did not know the exact date of 
the supposed declaration. The apparent reference 
to that declaration is probably nothing more than 
the result of error in calculating the time from 

1 The Mecklenburg Declaration^ 31-32. 

J& 



122 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

July 4, 1776; or perhaps the first year of inde- 
pendence was regarded as ending on the last day of 
the year 1776. Mr. A. S. Salley, Jr., of Columbia, 
S. C., has unearthed several indentures of this 
period, made in South Carolina, which are dated 
one year too many from, or one year too short of, 
July 4, 1776. He quotes the opinion of an emi- 
nent lawyer to the effect that the matter is "un- 
worthy of the notice of any historical student." 1 At 
all events, we are willing to treat them as evidence of 
a growing belief that the May 3ist resolves consti- 
tuted a declaration of independence. 

We have considered all the evidence, of an earl- 
ier date than 1800, of Mecklenburg's " Declaration 
of Independence " which researches extending over 
nearly a century have thus far brought to light. 
There is no evidence before 1 800 which confirms 
the alleged date of the transaction May 20, 1775. 
Dr. George W. Graham argues that the date is de- 
termined by the following circumstance 2 : "On 
May 20, 1787, the twelfth anniversary of the meet- 
ing at Charlotte, there was born to Major John 
Davidson, one of the signers, a son, Benjamin 
Wilson. And in honor of the Mecklenburg Dec- 
laration Benjamin was called by his father ' My 
Independence Boy, ' and to distinguish his identity 
in a county abounding in ' Davidsons ' was known 
among the neighbors as * Independence Ben. ' For 
this fact we are indepted to Mr. Robert F., aged 
seventy-five, and Dr. Joseph, aged sixty-eight years 

1 Charleston, S. C., Sunday News, July 8, 1906. 
1 The Mecklenburg Declaration. , 35-36. 



Origin of the Myth 123 

sons of Benjamin Wilson Davidson, who now reside 
in Charlotte and are men of the highest integrity. 
Ben Davidson died when about forty-five years of 
age and is buried in Hopewell Cemetery, where 
his tombstone now [1895] stands with the date of his 
birth, May 20, 1787, inscribed upon it." Dr. Graham 
seems to overlook the fact that Messrs. Robert F. 
and Dr. Joseph Davidson do not say that their 
father received the sobriquets of " My Indepen- 
dence Boy" and " Independence Ben " before 1800, 
or even before 1819, when the date of May 2Oth 
received much publicity. Their statement is of no 
significance whatever unless this was their meaning. 
Ben Davidson was certainly considerably over thir- 
teen years of age when his father began to call him 
" My Independence Boy, " for as late as 1830, when 
Major John Davidson was requested to state what 
he recollected about the Mecklenburg Declaration 
meeting, which he had attended as a member, the 
date of his son's birth was not associated in his mind 
with the date of that meeting. As to the date of 
the meeting he could only say : " I am confident 
that the Declaration of Independence by the 
people of Mecklenburg was made public at least 
twelve months before that of the Congress of the 
United States." 1 The Mecklenburg resolutions 
were adopted more than thirteen months before 
July 4, 1776. 

Having shown that the growth of the myth of 
the " Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence" 

1 John Davidson to Dr. Joseph McKnitt Alexander, October 5, 1830, 
State Pamphlet, Appendix. 



124 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

was likely, if not inevitable, and that all evidence 
of an earlier date than 1800 which is cited in support 
of the authenticity of the paper of May 20, 1775, 
applies as easily or more aptly to the paper of 
May 31, 1775, we pass to the earliest known 
evidence of the alleged declaration of indepen- 
dence. 



CHAPTER IX 

THE DAVIE COPY 

ON April 6, 1800, the records of the Mecklen- 
burg Committee of Safety were burned with the 
dwelling of John McKnitt Alexander, in Mecklen- 
burg county. Alexander had been a member of 
the committee, a representative from Mecklenburg 
in the Provincial Congresses of August and Sep- 
tember, 1775, and of April, 1776, and an active 
patriot during the Revolutionary War. He was 
sixty-seven years of age in 1800. At the suggestion, 
perhaps, of some of his old friends in Mecklenburg, 
or because he felt it incumbent upon himself, as 
the last custodian of the records, to preserve some 
memento of the deeds of his compatriots of "'75 " 
he reduced to writing his recollections of them at 
some time during the five months succeeding the 
destruction of the records. His manuscript was 
found in a mutilated condition, shortly after his 
death in 1817, by ms son > Dr. Joseph McKnitt 
Alexander. It was accompanied by a paper in an 
unknown handwriting which contained the same 
resolutions and historical note, with a few text- 
ual variations, as were published in the Raleigh 
Register of April 30, 1819. In a certificate to these 

125 



i26 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

documents, which were submitted to the committee 
appointed by the Legislature of North Carolina in 
1830 to examine the documentary proofs of the 
authenticity of the Mecklenburg Declaration, Dr. 
Alexander stated that he had " always taken " from 
the paper in an unknown handwriting, which was 
entire, where portions of the paper written by his 
father were lost ; meaning, without doubt, that he 
prepared from them the paper published in 1819. 

John McKnitt Alexander's manuscript is here 
reproduced from a copy made during the fifties for 
George Bancroft, the historian, which is now among 
the Bancroft manuscripts in the New York Public 
Library. Care was taken by the copyist, as will 
be seen from the facsimile of his manuscript, to 
reproduce every line and letter as it appeared in 
the original ; and he imitated the handwriting in 
several places. He copied as follows : J 

1775 

On the 19* May 1775 ["6" was written through 
"5"] Pursuant to the Order of Col? Tho! Polk 3 
to each Captain of Militia in his reigment of Meek- sic 
lenburg County, to elect nominate and appoint 2 
persons of their Militia company, cloathed with 
ample powers to devise ways & means to extricate 
themselves and ward off the dreadfull impending 
storm bursting on them by the British Nation &*: &* 

Therefore on s? 19^ May the s<* Committee met 
sic in Charlotte Town (2 men from each company) 

1 The italicised portions are notes in pencil by the copyist. 

Tho. Polk 
9 In the original it is written thus : Col. Adam Alexander. 



u**u ue; 




Bancroft's copy of the " torn half sheet" in John McKnitt Alexander's handwriting from 
which the Mecklenburg Declaration was constructed. 






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The Davie Copy 127 

or conceived they had 
sic Vested with all powers these their constituents had^&f 

about 

sic After a short conferance ^~e their suffering 
brethren beseiged and suffering every hardship in 
Boston and the American Blood running in Lexing- 

fire 
sic ton &. c the Electrical^flew into every breast and to 

Esquire 
sic preserve order-a4 Choose Abraham Alex^ chairman 

Secretary a few 

& J. M C K. A. After ^ about^^an Hour free discussion 
in order to give relief to suffering America and protect 
our Just & natural right 

I s . 1 We (the County) by a Solemn and awfull 

abjured 
vote, Dissolved our allegiance to King George & the 

British Nation. 

2* Declared our selves a free & independent people, 

having a right and capable to govern ourselves (as 

a part of North Carolina) 

3? In order to have laws as a rule of life for our 
sic future Government We forme4 a Code of laws, by 

adopting our former wholesome laws, 
then 

4* And as there was^no officers civil or Millitary 

in our County 

We Decreed that every Millitia officer in s* County 

should hold and occupy his former commission and 

Grade 

And that every member present, of this Committee 

shall henceforth \torn\ as a Justice of the Peace (in 
The original the) Character of a Committee M 
is torn here hear and determine all Controversies agree- 
at all the able to sMaws peace Union 

blanks. & harmony in s*? County and to use 

every spread the Electrial fire of free- 

dom among ourselves & u 



128 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

the 

sic 5* ^Mr& c . & c . many other laws & ordinances were 
then ma after sitting up in the 

Court house all night neither 

After reading and maturing every paragraph every sic 
sic par- they were all passed Nem-Con about 12 o'clock 
May 20.^-80 1775 * 

But in a few days (after cooling) a considerable 

part of s d . Committee Men conveened and employed 

Capt" James Jack (of Charlotte) to go express to 

Congress (then in Philadelphia) with a Copy of all 

resolutions and 

s d ... Laws & and a letter to our members there, sic 

W 1 ? 
sic Rich* Caswell,^ Joseph Hooper & Joseph Hughes in sic 

order to get Congress to sanction or approve them 

&< &<: 

Capt" Jack returned with a long, full, complasent 

letter from s<? 3 members, recommending our zeal 
sic recommending perseverance order & forbearance & c . 

(We were premature) Congress never had our s* 

laws on their table for discussion, though s d . Copy 

was left with them by Capt? Jack. 



sic N. B: about 1785 ["5" was changed to "7"] 
tT^^Doctor Hugh Williamson (then of New York ; 
but formerly was member of Congress from this 
The original state) applied 

is here above by Col W Polk, who was then 
torn compiling a 
in order to prove that the American people 

in the Revolution and that Congress 
were com 



1 This is written so in the original. 




' 






npwru IA/M 









H-o 



The Davie Copy 129 

N. B. allowing the 19* May to be a rash Act 
The original effects in binding all the middle * west 
is here firm whigs no torys but 

torn. not fully represented in the first 

2dpage 

Be it remembered. That the within mentioned 
Committee Men continued to act as Justices and 

or tollerated to act 
were confirmed^ in their offices by the Counsel of sit 

then sitting 

Safety in Newbern & Wilmington alternately about 
-^77 [not legible] and continued to hold their quarterly 
Sessions in Charlotte as usual and-uo appeals from no 
s? Justices for they had the confidence of the peo- 
ple and such was the Enthusiism of the people at sic 
large ''that whatever was the voice of the People 
was the voice of God" all was submission. Thus 
matters were carried on when lord Cornwallis was 
in Charlotte in the fall of 1780 " He was in a 
Hornets-nest " no communications to, or from but 

the great Cambden road all firm whigs but at 

[not legible] and they dare not move nor Cheap. sic 

or 2^ 

And the first Court held in Charlotte after 
lord Cornwallis retreated retrograded or run away 
from Charlotte, the Court adjourned or rather ap- 
pointed a Special Court of Enquiry which set by 
regular adjournments at Charlotte at Col? James 
Harris at Col? Phifers one week at each place to 
which places all suspicious persons were brought 

under Guard formally tried some from Lincoln 

and 

& Rowan Countys & even Booth^ Dunn (lawyers) 

from Salisbury were convicted and ordered off under 

Guard with several others 

sic These severe just tho arbitary measures were 
sic the cause of peace \torn\ the County until! -July 4 

9 



130 The Mecklenburg Declaration 



the fall of 1777 when our first [torn] embly 
met in Newbern in the State of North Carolina and 

nearly all that was done 
confirmed [torn] proved ^ all we had done. New State sic 

commissions then issued &' [torn] fficers as they 
yet do see the laws of s? session of 1777. 

[torn] & foregoing extracted from the old 

minutes &? 

By J MK Alexander 

[torn] ch were the feeling and sympathiteck sensations sic 
of the Mecklenburgers, when they knew their brethren 
of Boston were beseiged by General Gage & in a state 
of Starvation, that in each Capt" Militia company a 
Subscription was signed for their relief many sub- 
scribed one Bullock other 2 Joined for one Bullock 
and none was suffered to sign but what the officers 
sic and leading men admited, & for whom they were 

responsible &^ And had there been a plan of gover- sic 
ment for their driving to Boston, 100 would have 
been given in the county in one week the next news 
we heard Boston had got relief We were thanked 
for our goodwill 

And soon afterwards we smelt and felt the Blood 

& carnage of Lexington which raised all the pas- 

sic sions into fury which was and revenge which was 

j/V the immediate cause of abjuring Great britain on May 

ig. +3 1775. 
April 19. 1775. wa the battle at Lexington 



The rest is torn off. 

The person who copied the foregoing manuscript 
stated that it was " sewed up in a sheet of paper on 
which was written the Mecklenburg Declaration of 
Independence as printed in the Raleigh Register of 



/ 




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The Davie Copy 

April 30, 1819," but with a few variations. In 
the paper reproduced in the accompanying facsim- 
ile he copied these variations and all corrections, 
erasures, etc., in the original manuscript, and noted 
their place by the number of the line of the corre- 
sponding portion of the Raleigh Register document 
as reprinted in the State Pamphlet. Reconstructed 
from the copyist's notes and the State Pamphlet, 
the manuscript in an unknown handwriting, to which 
John McKnitt Alexander's was attached, is as 
follows : 

N? Carolina Mecklenberg County. Declaration of Inde- 
pendence May 20. I775. 1 

In the spring of 1775, the leading characters of Mecklen- 
burg county, stimulated by that enthusiastic-ardour patriotism 
which elevates the mind above considerations of individual 
agrandisement, and scorning to shelter themselves from the im- 
pending storm by submission to lawless power, &c. &c. held 
several detached meetings, in each of which the individual 
sentiments were, " that the cause of Boston was the cause 
of all ; that their destinies were indissolubly Jbted connected 
with those of their Eastern fellow-citizens and that they 
must either submit to all the impositions which an unprincipled, 
and to them an unrepresented, Parliament might impose 
or support their brethren who were doomed to sustain the 
first shock of that power, which, if successful there, would 
ultimately overwhelm all-with in the common calamity." Con- 
formably to these principles -it-was Col n . Adam Alexander, 
["Thos. Polk" written through "Adam Alexander"] 
thr. solicitation 
was authorised to issued an order to each Captain's company 

comprising 

in the county of Mecklenburg, (then-embracing the present 
county of Cabarrus,) directing each militia company to elect 

1 This title was in a different handwriting. 






132 The Mecklenburg Declaration 



persons, and delegate to them ample powers to devise 
ways and means to aid and assist their suffering brethren in 
Boston, and also generally to adopt measures to extricate 
themselves from the impending storm, and to secure un- 
impaired their inaliable rights, privileges and liberties, from 
the dominant grasp of British imposition and tryanny. 
In conformity to said order, on the ipth of May, 1775, the 

town ^1 

said delegation met in * Charlotte ^ vested with unlimited 
powers ; at which time official news, by express, arrived 
of the battle of Lexington on that day of the previceding 
month. Every delegate felt the value and importance of 
the prize, and the awfull and solemn crisis which had arrived 
every bosom swelled with indignation at the malice, inveteracy, 
and insatiable revenge, developed in the late attact at Lex- 
ington. The universal sentiment was : let us not flatter 
ourselves that popular harangues, or resolves ; that popular 
vapour will avert the storm, or vanquish our common enemy 
let us deliberate let us calculate the issue the probable 
result ; and then let us act with energy, as brethren leagued to 
preserve our property our lives and what is still more en- 
dearing, the liberties of America. Abraham Alexander was 
then elected Chairman, and John McKnitt Alexander, Clerk. 
After a free and full discussion of the various objects for 
which the delegation had been convened, it was unanimously 
ordained 

1 That whosoever directly or indirectly abetted, or in any 
way, form, or manner, countenanced the unchartered and 
dangerous invasion of our rights, as claimed by G. britain is 
an enemy to this County to America and to the inherent 
and inaliable rights of man. 

do 

2 We the Citizens of Mecklenburg County are- hereby 
de the 

political bands which have connected us to the 



1 Note in the margin: " ' town* Is the handwriting of J n ? M c K? Alex- 
ander. 

"J. M? Knitt." 



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The Bancroft copyist's description of the " sheet" in an " unknown handwriting" from 
which the publication of 1819 was copied. 



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The Davie Copy 133 

Mother Country, and hereby absolve ourselves from all alle- 
giance to the British Crown, and abjure all political connection, 

association 

contract, or dependence with that nation, who have wantonly 
trampled on our rights and liberties and inhumanly shed the 
innocent blood of American patriots at Lexington. 

3 We do hereby declare ourselves a free and independent 
people, are, and of right ought to be, a sovereign and self-gov- 
erning Association, under the control of no power other than 
that of our God and the General Government of the g con- 
gress to the maintainance of which independance civil & re- 
ligious we solemnly pledge to each other, our mutual co-opera- 
tion, our lives, our fortunes, and our most sacred honor. 

4 As we now acknowledge the existance & controul of no 
law or legal officer, civil or military, within this county, we 
do hereby ordain and adopt, as a rule of life, all, each and 
every of our former laws, wherein, nevertheless, the Crown of 

never can 

great britain nevertheless can & ought be considered as hold- 
ing rights, privileges, immunities, or authority therein. 

5 It is also further decreed, that all, each and every mili- 
tary officer in this county, is hereby reinstated to his former 
command and authority, he acting conformably to these reg- 
ulations. And that every member present of this delegation 

be civil officer ~et viz ask 

shall henceforth act-as.^ a Justice of the Peace, in the character 
of a * Committee-man, " to hoar issue process, hear and 
determine all matters of controversy, according to said 
adopted laws, and to preserve peace, and union, and harmony, 
in said county, and to use every exertion to spread the love 
of country and fire of freedom throughout America, until a 
more general and organized government be established in this 
State province. 

shall 

A selection from the members present was constituted a 
Committee of public safety for s? County. 

A number of bye laws were also added, merely to protect 
the association from confusion, and to regulate their general 
conduct as citizens. After setting up in the Court House all 



134 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

night neither sleepy hungry or fatigued and after discussing 
every paragraph, they were all passed, sanctioned, and de- 

unanimously 
creed iieui cuii about rz o'Clock^ May 20* l In a few 

deputation convened 

days a second meeting of s? delegation of took place, when 
Capt. James Jack, of Charlotte, was deputed as express to 
Congress in Philadelphia, with a copy of said Resolves and 
Proceedings, together with a letter addressed to our three re- 
presentatives there, viz. Richard Caswell, W? JaMrlooper 
and Joseph Hughes under express injunctions, personally, 
& thro' the s^ State representation, to use all possible means 
to have said proceedings sanctioned and approved by the 
General Congress. On the return of Captain Jack, the dele- 
gation learned that their proceedings were individually ap- 
proved by the Members of Congress, but that it was deemed 
premature to lay them before the house those a joint letter 
from said three members of Congress was also received, 
complimentary of the zeal in the common cause, and recom- 
mending perseverance, order and energy. 

The subsequent harmony, unanimity, and exertion in the 
cause of liberty and independence, evidently resulting from 
these regulations, and the continued exertion of said delega- 
tion, apparently tranquilised this section of the State, and met 
with the concurrence and high approbation of the Council of 
Safety, who held their sessions at Newbern and Wilmington, 
alternately, and who confirmed the nomination and acts of 
the delegation in their official capacity. 

From this delegation originated the Court of Enquiry of 
this county, who constituted and held their first session ^ irn^ 
soon after in Charlotte rcmuvcu frum 
liicuicttcly ' Oil JLjUiil CJOi n WitHis icctvmg CJnciilulLc 111 I lie year 

then 

iTSo^ they held their meetings regularly at Charlotte, at Col. 
James Harris's, and at Col. Phifer's, alternately, one week at 

civil 

each place. It was a military court founded on military 
process. Before this Judicature, all suspicious persons were 

1 Over the caret the original manuscript was scratched into a hole. 



f 



The Davie Copy 135 

made to appear, were formally tried and banished, or con- 
tinued under guard. Its jurisdiction was as unlimited as 
toryism, and its decrees as final as the confidence and patriotism 
of the county. Several were arrested and brought before 
them from Lincoln, Rowan and the adjacent counties Booth 
& Dunn (lawyers) were brot from Salisbury tryed convicted 
proscribed & banished &*: &? 

The " sheet " in an unknown handwriting and the 
mutilated "half sheet" written by John McKnitt 
Alexander were thus certified by his son : 

No. Carolina, ) 

Mecklenburg County, j 

The sheet and torn half sheet to which this is attached (the 
sheet is evidently corrected in two places by John McKnitt 
Alexander as marked on it JflT 3 the half sheet is in his own 
handwriting) were found after the death of Jno. McKnitt 
Alexander in his old mansion house in the centre of a roll of 
old pamphlets, viz. : " an address on public liberty printed 
Philadelphia, 1774 ; " one "on the Disputes with G. Britain, 
printed 1775 " ; one " on State affairs, printed at Hillsborough, 
1788 " ; and " an address on Federal policy to the Citizens of 
No. C., a 1788 " ; and the " Journal of the Provincial Congress 
of No. C., a held at Hallifax the 4 of April, 1776," which 
papers have been in my possession ever since. 

Certifyed Novr. 25th, 1830. 

(signed) J. McKNiTT. 

In an address delivered at an Academy near Charlotte, pub- 
lished in the Raleigh Minerva of loth Augt., 1809, the Meck- 
lenburg Declaration is distinctly stated, etc. 

As to the full sheet being in an unknown handwrite, it 
matters not who may have thus copyed the original record : 
by comparing the copy deposited with Genl. Davie they two 
will be found so perfectly the same, so far as his is preserved, 
that no imposition is possible the one from the same original 
as the other is conclusive. I have therefore always taken from 
the one which is entire, where the other is lost, the entire sheet 



136 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

is most probably a copy taken long since from the original 
for some person, corrected by Jno. McKnitt Alexander, and 
now sent on. the roll of pamphlets with which these two 
papers were found I never knew were amongst his old survey- 
ing and other old papers untill after his death, they may 
have been unrolled since 1788. 

(signed) J. McKNiTT. 

When last known to be extant, the originals of 
the foregoing documents were in the possession of 
David L. Swain. Swain was governor of North 
Carolina from 1833 to X 836, president of the State 
University from 1835 to 1868, and "Historical 
Agent " for procuring documents relating to North 
Carolina history during the fifties. Much of his 
great historical collection, including manuscripts 
borrowed from the State archives, from the univer. 
sity, and from private persons, was scattered after 
his death in 1 868 1 ; and practically all the original 
documents collected before that date to prove that 
Mecklenburg county declared independence in 
1775 were lost. As early as 1851 Governor Swain 8 
had in his possession all the original papers that 
were copied into the State Pamphlet, the preface to 
which was written by him for Governor Montfort 

1 Sketch of Swain in Peele's Lives of Distinguished North Carolinians ; 
and private information from Dr. Kemp P. Battle, ex-president of the Univ. 
of N. C. At the time of Governor Swain's death, the documents which 
did not belong to him were, unfortunately, in his private library, and not 
mentioned in his will. During the Reconstruction period many were lost, 
sold, or given away. All that remains of the Swain collection, of which 
the writer has any knowledge, is in the State archives, in the archives of 
the University of North Carolina, and in the Emmet Collection in the 
N. Y. Pub. Lib. 

* Swain to Benson J. Lossing, Dec. 20, 1851 ; transcript in the Bancroft 
Collection, N. Y. Pub. Lib. 



s . , 

^^ <rt-i,' /-ud 




Copy of the certificate attached by Dr. Joseph McKnitt Alexander to the anonymous 
manuscript and his father's. 



U ?&.?. 



,-/ ^(V/ /' d '.' &0L 






The Davie Copy 137 

Stokes. " After that pamphlet was compiled," said 
Governor William A. Graham in a special message 
to the Legislature on January 8, 1847, "the various 
original papers referred to in it were returned by 
Governor Stokes to Dr. J. McKnitt Alexander, 
of Mecklenburg, at the request of the latter, by 
whom they had been collected and furnished to 
the General Assembly. These were obtained from 
the family of the only son and Executor of Dr. 
Alexander (both father and son being now dead) in 
the Autumn of 1845, and are now in this office." 
Dr. Joseph McKnitt Alexander's certificate to the 
foregoing manuscripts identifies them as those re- 
ferred to in his certificate to the narrative and 
resolutions published in 1819 and reprinted in the 
State Pamphlet. He certified the latter to be a 
true copy of papers left in his hands by John 
McKnitt Alexander. The published document is 
not quite word for word the same as what appeared 
in the manuscript in an unknown handwriting, but 
this was due for the most part to emendations 
made when it was first printed from Dr. Joseph 
McKnitt Alexander's letter to William Davidson. 
Colonel Folk's transcript of that letter 1 shows that 
in copying the manuscript in an unknown hand- 
writing Dr. Alexander inserted " Resolved " before 
each resolution and " A. M." before " 2 o'clock " in 
the accompanying narrative, and omitted the words 
"civil and religious" in the third resolution, a line 
of the narrative immediately following the resolu- 
tions, and the word " up " in the phrase following 

1 See Appendix. 



138 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

the omitted line. With these exceptions he copied 
accurately. 

The committee appointed by the Legislature of 
North Carolina in November, 1830, which reported 
that they had " examined, collated, and arranged 
all the documents which have been accessible to 
them touching the Declaration of Independence 
by the citizens of Mecklenburg," undoubtedly ex- 
amined the papers referred to by Dr. Alexander. 
The date of the certificate to those reproduced 
above, November 25, as well as its tenor, shows 
that it was addressed to that committee. It is most 
likely that they were among the papers obtained in 
1845 fr m the family of Dr. Alexander's son and 
borrowed from the Executive Office in Raleigh by 
Governor Swain some time before 1851. 

Dr. Joseph McKnitt Alexander published the 
notes on the Mecklenburg resolutions contained in 
the "half sheet" written by his father in the 
Yadkin and Catawba Journal (Salisbury, N. C.) 
of November 9, 1830. Extracts copied from the 
original manuscript are also to be found in a pub- 
lished address delivered at Wake Forest College 
in 1852 by Romulus M. Saunders. When preparing 
this address Judge Saunders examined all the docu- 
ments on the Mecklenburg Declaration then in the 
possession of Governor Swain. He describes the 
Alexander manuscripts as " Two papers, furnished 
by Dr. Alexander, who certifies that they were 
found by him among some old pamphlets of his 
father's, the one a half-sheet in the hand-writing of 
John McKnitt Alexander, the other a full sheet in 



The Davie Copy 139 

some ' unknown hand.' These papers were stitched 
together ; the half-sheet is an old paper, and from 
its appearance, I should say in all reasonable pro- 
bability is the oldest manuscript we have of the 
meeting of May, 1775. The other sheet gives the 
same statement and resolutions as published, and 
has one or two corrections in the hand-writing of 
John McKnitt Alexander." 

The carefully prepared copies of the Alexander 
manuscripts are in a volume of historical matter of 
the year 1775 in the Bancroft Collection (America. 
1 775. Vol. ii., p. 69). The volume consists mostly of 
transcripts of manuscripts relating to America in 
the British archives in London. A part of it is 
devoted to matter on the Mecklenburg Declaration 
collected by Bancroft, and includes letters of Gov- 
ernor Swain, Charles Phillips, Hugh Blair Grigsby, 
and Henry S. Randall. Bancroft was in correspond- 
ence with Swain as early as 1835 and as late as 
1858. The scrupulous regard for accuracy with 
which the papers reproduced above were manifestly 
prepared, their agreement with extracts from the 
original manuscripts published in 1830 and 1852, 
the copyist's notes upon the condition of the origi- 
nals, the opportunity afforded Bancroft by his 
acquaintance with Governor Swain of obtaining 
accurate copies, his keen interest in the Mecklen- 
burg controversy, and his belief in the accuracy of 
the copies which he obtained at the time when the 
originals were extant, render it certain that these 
copies are perfect reproductions of the originals. 

Notwithstanding the statement on a mutilated 



The Mecklenburg Declaration 

portion of the paper in John McKnitt Alexander's 
handwriting that the " foregoing [was] extracted 
from the old minutes &c., " it was obviously pre- 
pared after the destruction of the records of the 
Mecklenburg committee in April, 1 800. Alexander 
no doubt meant that he reproduced in substance 
what had been stated in the " old minutes &c. " as 
he recalled them. Such a crude paper would never 
have been written were the records or transcripts 
of them accessible. The entire paper is on its face 
a narrative of events long passed away, some of 
which occurred during the later years of the Revo- 
lutionary War, and it recites many circumstances 
for which John McKnitt Alexander obviously drew 
upon his memory. Errors in regard to the person 
who issued the order for the meeting described and 
in regard to the clerk of the meeting, which will be 
noticed later, are revealed by the testimony of 
others who attended it. Moreover, Alexander ex- 
pressed his uncertainty about facts which must have 
been stated in the records. He wrote Joseph for 
William Hooper, afterwards correcting his error, 
and Hughes for Hewes. He was in doubt as to 
whether it was the "first or 2d" meeting of the 
committee men held in Charlotte after the retreat 
of Cornwallis that appointed a court of inquiry. 
He might easily have satisfied himself on this point 
could he have consulted the records of the Meck- 
lenburg committee and court of inquiry which 
were burned in his house. He wrote so long 
after sending a copy of the Mecklenburg resolutions 
to Hugh Williamson that he thought at first that 



The Davie Copy I4 1 

-* V-B'-. -'.{; 

it was sent in 1785, and twice thereafter recollected 
a different year. His inadvertency, on two occa- 
sions, in writing "18" and "180" when intending 
to write "1775" makes it plain that he wrote in 
1800 or later. Even if it could be demonstrated, 
in the face of this evidence, that the paper co-ex- 
isted with the records that were burned in April, 
1800, John McKnitt Alexander's crude notes on the 
resolutions which he understood to be a declara- 
tion of independence prove conclusively that their 
phraseology was not fixed in his memory. 

A comparison of the foregoing papers reveals 
unmistakable evidence that the paper in an un- 
known handwriting was prepared from Alexander's 
notes. The anonymous paper is clearly not an 
original draft. It is nothing more than a revision 
of the notes, with a few facts added, and retaining 
many of the better-worded phrases of both the 
narrative and condensed resolutions or decrees. 
The numerous coincidences of order and form in 
which the same facts are stated in the two papers 
need not be pointed out specifically. The paper 
which was attached to Alexander's notes contains 
the errors found in the notes as to the principals 
at the meeting, gives Hooper the name of Joseph, 
afterwards corrected in both papers, and repeats 
the statement that the resolutions were adopted 
at 12 o'clock at night, which was subsequently 
changed to 2 o'clock. Corrections made at the 
time of writing in the resolutions as well as in the 
narrative also show that the records were not at 
hand when they were prepared. Only two correc- 



The Mecklenburg Declaration 

tions are attributed to John McKnitt Alexander by 
his son. Instances of changes made in the text of 
the resolutions at the time of writing may be seen 
in the third resolution, where the half-formed word 
"general," before "congress," was struck out; 
in the fourth resolution, where the phrase struck 
out and rewritten could not have been copied from 
an original record by the grossest inadvertency, 
nor left uncorrected in the manuscript of any one 
of ordinary intelligence ; in the fifth resolution, 
where the word "issue" was substituted for " hear," 
which appears in the same connection in Alexander's 
notes, by writing not above but on the line, and 
hence before the next word was written ; and in the 
same resolution where the word "province" was 
substituted for " State. " The writer would certainly 
not have assumed to improve the phraseology of 
the resolutions as well as the historical statement 
if he copied from a record, nor would John 
McKnitt Alexander have changed only two words 
if he himself did not rely solely upon his memory 
for the form of the resolutions. The number and 
character of the emendations in the resolutions 
preclude the possibility of their being corrections 
of errors made in transcribing an original record. 
Finally the literary style of the resolutions and 
narrative betray a common authorship. They 
exhibit the same method of frequently presenting 
several verbs and nouns to express the same action 
or thing ; contain some of the same peculiar words; 
present the same ambitious, forcible, but inaccurate 
diction, and, in a word, have the same ring through- 



The Davie Copy 143 

out. 1 They bear every mark of having been writ- 
ten by some one endeavoring to express the spirit 
of the period and to make it as strong as possible. 
The style resembles that of Alexander's notes, and 
many words and phrases of the narrative and reso- 
lutions are to be found in the notes, but this is a far 
more scholarly paper. It is wholly unlike that of 
Ephraim Brevard, who is said to have been au- 
thor of the " Mecklenburg Declaration of Indepen- 
dence. " Brevard was a graduate of Princeton, an 
able writer, and the acknowledged draftsman of the 
Mecklenburg resolves of May 31, 1775. He could 
not have written a paper with such numerous tau- 
tologies and bungling imitation of the language of 
legal instruments. 

Dr. Joseph McKnitt Alexander stated in his 
certificate accompanying the document published 
in the Raleigh Register of April 30, 1819, that he 
found it " mentioned on file " that a copy of the 
" proceedings " was sent to Gen. William R. Davie. 
The Davie copy, in John McKnitt Alexander's 
handwriting, was found in a mutilated condition 
among General Davie's papers shortly after his death 
in i 82O. 2 As far as it was preserved, it was "perfectly 
the same, " according to Dr. Alexander's certificate 
of November 25, 1830, as the paper in an unknown 
handwriting from which he prepared the publication 
of 1819. Instead of copying directly from the 
Davie manuscript, which they described as " some- 

1 H. S. Randall : Life of Thomas Jefferson, iii., 581. 

* See Dr. Henderson's certificate, State Pamphlet, and N. C. Univ. Mag.^ 
May, 1853, ii., 170. In 1853, only the last two of the resolutions printed 
in the Raleigh Register in 1819 appeared in the Davie paper. 



144 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

\ 

what torn, but is entirely legible," the editors of 
the State Pamphlet reprinted the resolutions and 
historical note from the Raleigh Register as the 
paper "originally deposited by John McKnitt 
Alexander in the hands of Gen. Davie. " The age 
and trustworthiness of the Davie paper and of its 
counterpart in the unknown handwriting are fixed 
by the conclusion to the former 1 : 

It may be worthy of notice here to observe that the foregoing 
statement, though fundamentally correct, yet may not literally 
correspond with the original record of the transactions of said 
delegation and court of enquiry, as all those records and papers 
were burnt with the house on April 6th, 1800; but previous to 
that time of 1800, a full copy of said records, at the request 
of Doctor Hugh Williamson, then of New York, but formerly 
a representative in Congress from this State, was forwarded to 
him by Col. Wm. Polk, in order that those early transactions 
might fill their proper place in a history of this State then 
writing by said Doctor Williamson in New York. 

Certified to the best of my recollection and belief ", this 3d day 
of September, 1800, by 

J. McK. ALEXANDER. 
Mecklenburg County, N. C. 

This certificate of John McKnitt Alexander 
remained unknown to the world until the Rev. 
Charles Phillips, D.D., professor of mathematics 
at the University of North Carolina, and secretary 
of the Historical Society of the University, copied 
it from the original Davie paper placed in his hands 
by Governor Swain, and published it in an elaborate 
article contributed by him to the North Carolina 
University Magazine of May, 1853. The Davie 

1 N. C. Univ. Mag., May, 1853, *7$ The italics are not in the 
original. 



The Davie Copy 145 

paper was removed from the Executive Office at 
Raleigh by Governor Swain for critical inspection 
and lost between 1868 and 1875, when the Swain 
collection was scattered. The authenticity of this 
certificate has rarely been questioned, and many 
times after its publication Professor Phillips con- 
firmed its textual accuracy as given above in its integ- 
rity. 1 " His high personal character," said James C. 
Welling, who knew him, " is a sufficient guarantee 
for his loyalty to truth in this matter. Moreover, 
as the document at the time of its publication was 
still in the custody of Governor Swain, it is impos- 
sible that a member of his faculty, writing with his 
full cognizance, could have published a falsification 
of the document without instantaneous detection 
and exposure. " 

Letters of Governor Swain in the New York 
Public Library, written during the fifties to George 
Bancroft and to Benson J. Lossing, contain many 
references to the Davie manuscript and other origi- 
nal documents on the Mecklenburg Declaration 
then in his possession. 2 He stated repeatedly that 
there was no evidence satisfactory to his mind 
"that the papers purporting to be Mecklenburg 
declarations are true copies of the original record "; 
and that the Davie paper was written in September, 

1 James C. Welling in Mag. of Amer. Hist., March, 1889, xxi., 223 ; 
Professor Phillips in N. Y. Evening Post, May 19, 1875, and in letters to 
P. B. Means, published in 1887 in a pamphlet entitled " May, 1775" con- 
taining a reprint of his article of 1853 ; Gov. Graham's Address, 87. 

9 Swain to Lossing, December 20, 1851 ; to Bancroft, March 6, 1858, and 
March 18, 1858. New York Public Library. Cf. Swain to H. S. Randall, 
April 6, 1858, printed in Tompkins's Hi story of Mecklenburg County, ii, 
53~54 from a copy in the Draper Collection. 
10 



146 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

1800. " It was not taken from the record," he 
said, " it is not shown to be a copy of a copy, or 
that there was a copy extant in September, 1 800. " 
" While I have never assumed to speak ex cathedra 
upon this subject," he wrote in 1851, " I have 
never concealed my opinions from my friends. 
Wheeler and Wiley were fully apprized of them, 
and the former persisted in maintaining the authen- 
ticity of the paper, in despite of assurances from 
me that no one of the three gentlemen to whom 
his book is dedicated would sustain him. " 1 Gov- 
ernor Swain changed his mind more than once as 
to whether a formal declaration of independence 
was ever adopted in Mecklenburg, but always 
maintained that there was no document which fixed 
with certainty the date of the alleged declaration ; 
" nor, with the exception of a series of doggerel 
verses which have recently come into my posses- 
sion," he wrote Bancroft in 1858, " is there any 
paper containing a direct reference to the subject 
which I suppose to be of earlier date than Septem- 
ber, 1800." 

The certificate of the Davie copy constitutes the 
last link in the chain of documentary evidence, all 
proceeding from John McKnitt Alexander, which 
proves that the " Mecklenburg Declaration of 
Independence " is a distorted record of a true 
manifesto of Mecklenburg county, clothed in lan- 
guage wholly different from that of the true mani- 
festo, conceived in the imperfect memory of John 

1 Wheeler dedicated his History of North Carolina to Bancroft, Force 
and Swain. 



The Davie Copy 147 

McKnitt Alexander, and written twenty-five years 
after its alleged date. Alexander professed to be 
only " fundamentally correct " in his " statement," 
which included the declaration and his history of it. 
He said that it might not "literally correspond" 
with the original records, " as all those records and 
papers " had been burnt ; and he mentions no 
memoranda that had been preserved. As if these 
caveats were not enough to prevent misconstruction, 
he was careful to certify only according to his best 
" recollection and belief. " " As water in finding 
its natural level can never rise higher than its 
source, so the ' Mecklenburg Declaration of Inde- 
pendence ' can never rise higher than its natural 
level in these 'recollections' and 'beliefs' of its 
original sponsor. " * In John McKnitt Alexander's 
rough notes we find his reminiscences as he re- 
duced them to writing before the Davie copy was 
prepared the Davie paper in embyro. Upon no 
other supposition can their existence be accounted 
for. The internal evidence that Alexander's notes 
were written in 1800 or later without the aid of the 
records, which were destroyed in April of that year, 
the internal evidence that the manuscript in an un- 
known handwriting was not transcribed from those 
records, the similarity and identical features of the 
two papers and the corrections in one of them in- 
dicating that the anonymous paper was a revision 
of the notes, the significant fact that John McKnitt 
Alexander attached these papers together, and, 
finally, Alexander's own admission that the Davie 

1 Mag. of Am. Hist., March, 1889, xxi., 224. 



148 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

copy, dated September 3, 1800, and literally the 
same as the paper in an unknown handwriting, was 
written from memory, prove beyond the shadow of 
a doubt that his notes were the basis of the other 
papers. These documents tell the story of the 
transfiguration of the Mecklenburg resolves of May 
31, 1775, seen through the prismatic glass of Alex- 
ander's imperfect memory, into the " Mecklenburg 
Declaration of Independence." 

We have no reason to believe that John McKnitt 
Alexander refreshed his memory of the resolutions 
which he understood to be a declaration of inde- 
pendence within thirteen years before the loss of 
the records. He states in his notes that he sent a 
copy to Dr. Hugh Williamson in i 787 or sooner. 
Governor Montfort Stokes recollected in 1831 to 
have seen this copy in Dr. Williamson's possession 
in the year 1 793. 1 Nothing short of infallibility 
could have enabled Governor Stokes to identify the 
phraseology of a paper which he saw but once, 
thirty-eight years previously. His testimony proves 
no more than that he saw a paper of similar tenor 
to that of the Davie copy, for John McKnitt 
Alexander himself claimed to reproduce but its 
substance. There was no issue as to the paper 
adopted in Mecklenburg in May, 1775, when Gov- 
ernor Stokes gave his testimony, nor until Peter 
Force published the May 3ist resolves in 1838. 
Williamson's History of North Carolina 2 is silent 
concerning a declaration of independence by Meck- 

1 See State Pamphlet, Preface, 
Published in 1812. 



The Davie Copy 149 

lenburg county, for the good reason that he was 
favored with a copy of the records before they had 
been burnt. Williamson says in his preface that he 
proposed to bring his work down to the year 1790 
and had collected materials for that purpose, but, 
"considering that the history of the province may 
be acceptable to many people who are less solicit- 
ous about late military transactions," he desisted 
from his plan. The history proper closes with 
the dispute between Governor Martin and the 
Assembly, culminating in the dissolution of the 
Assembly by the governor in 1774 ; but the re- 
flections of the author on the political situation of 
the colony at that time, in which he touches upon 
"the desire of independence and self-government" 
41 when people are separated by nature from other 
nations and other governments," offered a most 
appropriate but neglected opportunity to say a 
word of the " gigantic step of its county of Meck- 
lenburg, " if John McKnitt Alexander furnished 
him with anything but the paper of May 31, 1775. 
The stoppage of his narrative did not prevent 
Williamson from recording statistics of exports 
during the years 1785 to 1788, the discovery of a 
subterranean wall in Rowan county as late as 1 794, 
and the introduction of machines for spinning cot- 
ton in the year 1811. Williamson died in New 
York May 22, 1819. The documents which he 
collected for the continuation of his work are 
supposed to have been burnt in a warehouse in 
Pearl Street, New York, in the great fire of I835. 1 

1 Professor Phillips, in the N. Y. Evening Post, May 19, 1875. 



150 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

Like the critics of later days, John McKnitt 
Alexander no doubt believed when he last saw 
the records of the Mecklenburg committee that the 
May 3ist resolves were a declaration of independ- 
ence. In 1800, their provisional character, obscured 
by the permanent separation from Great Britain 
by the Declaration of July 4, 1776, which made 
Mecklenburg an independent county dating from 
May 31, 1775, had passed completely from his 
mind. Of their form, as we see from his notes, 
he had dim recollections. A reproduction from 
mere memory of a document whose import he 
misunderstood when he had the original before him 
years previously and whose phraseology he had 
forgotten, prepared at a time when the document 
was remembered by many as a declaration of inde- 
pendence, and originating in a patriotic effort to 
preserve from oblivion the worthy sentiments and 
actions of himself and his neighbors, could hardly 
be expected to be anything but an exaggerated 
travesty of the original. His rough notes were 
probably the result of his first attempt to recall 
what was done in Charlotte in May, 1775, after 
the loss of the records. He seems to have had 
no intention, when he sat down to write them, of 
attempting to reproduce the phraseology of the 
document which he understood to be a declaration 
of independence. The substance of the document 
was clearly all that his failing memory could supply. 
The substance of the Mecklenburg resolves of 
May 31, 1775, the portion which approaches a 
declaration of independence, and the portion with 



The Davie Copy 



15* 



which Alexander's recollections are identified, is 
contained in the preamble and first five resolves : 



May 3 ist Resolves. 

Whereas .... we conceive that 
all laws and commissions con- 
firmed by, or derived from the 
authority of the King or Par- 
liament, are annulled and vaca- 
ted, and the former civil con- 
stitution of these colonies, for 
the present, wholly suspended. 



I. That all commissions, civil 
and military, heretofore grant- 
ed by the Crown, to be exer- 
cised in these colonies, are 
null and void, and the con- 
stitution of each particular 
colony wholly suspended. 

II. That the Provincial Con- 
gress of each province, under 
the direction of the great Con- 
tinental Congress, is invested 
with all legislative and execu- 
tive powers within their re- 
spective provinces ; [2] and 
that no other legislative or 
executive power, does, or can 
exist, at this time, in any of 
these colonies. 

III. As all former laws are 
now suspended in this pro- 
vince, and the Congress have 
not yet provided others, we 
judge it necessary, for the 
better preservation of good 



Alexander's Notes. 

ist We (the County) by a 
Solemn and awfull vote, Dis- 
solved [or abjured] our allegi- 
ance to King George & the 
British Nation. 



2d. Declared ourselves a free 
& independent people, [2] 
having a right and capable to 
govern ourselves(as a part of 
North Carolina.) 



3d. In order to have laws as 
a rule of life for our future 
Government We formed a 
Code of laws ; by adopting 
our former wholesome laws. 



i5 2 The Mecklenburg Declaration 



order, to form certain rules 
and regulations for the inter- 
nal government of this county, 
until laws shall be provided 
for us by the Congress. 

IV. That the inhabitants of 
this county do .... chuse a 
Colonel and other military 
officers, who shall hold and 
excercise their several powers 
by virtue of this choice, and 
independent of the Crown of 
Great Britain, and former 
constitution of this province. 

V. That for the better pre- 
servation of the peace and ad- 
ministration of justice, each 
of those [milita] companies 
do chuse from their own body, 
two discreet freeholders, who 

shall be empowered to 

decide and determine all 

matters of controversy, 

[and by the succeeding re- 
solves to be members of the 
Committee of Safety]. 

VI-XX. 



4th. And as there was then 
no Officers civil or Millitary 
in our County 

We Decreed that every Mil- 
litia officer in s'd County 
should hold and occupy his 
former commission and Grade 



And that every member 
present, of this Committee 
shall henceforth [act] as a 
Justice of the Peace in the 
Character of a Committee 
M[an, to] hear and determine 
all Controversies agreeable to 
s'd laws [and to preserve] 
peace Union & harmony in 
s'd County and to use every 
[exertion to] spread the Elec- 
trial fire of freedom among 
ourselves & u 



5th. &c. &c. many other laws 
& ordinances were then 
ma[de]. 

Resolve XVIII of May 31, 1775, which made all 
the others defeasible by the possible abandonment 
on the part of the British Government of its arbi- 
trary policy toward the colonies, is among the 
"other laws and ordinances" which John McKnitt 
Alexander could not remember. This is far less 



The Davie Copy 153 

remarkable than the failure of the New York and 
Boston printers of 1775 to notice it. They copied 
the preamble and first four resolves and sum- 
marized or omitted to mention the other sixteen. 
Without this limitation, with the word " dissolved " 
substituted for " suspended ," and the qualification 
as to time omitted in the preamble and Resolves 
I and II, the subject-matter of the first five resolves 
and the order in which each appears in the series 
agree " fundamentally " with Alexander's notes. 
In their descriptions of the document of May 31, 
1775, Governor Martin, writing in 1775, shortly 
after reading the document, and John McKnitt 
Alexander, writing from memory in 1800, failed, as 
so many others have done, to note any of these 
essential features by which it fell short of a decla- 
ration of independence. Believing, as he did, that 
the document was a formal declaration of indepen- 
dence, Alexander's notes on the first two resolves* 
which in his mind contained the declaration proper, 
bear less resemblance to the true document than 
the others. His reminiscences of the others neces- 
sarily tended to conform to this belief. Hence it is 
that, while Alexander rightly recollected that the 
third, fourth, and fifth resolves concerned, respect- 
ively, laws, military officers, and civil officers, he 
was in error as to their terms. Resolve III of 
May 3 ist states that, as all former laws were 
suspended, the "rules and regulations for the 
internal government" which follow should be 
adopted ; and Resolves IV and V order an election 
of county militia officers and of two persons from 



154 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

each militia company to be justices of the peace 
and members of a standing convention, or com- 
mittee, having judical and administrative powers. 
The court records of Mecklenburg show that the 
old civil and criminal codes, in so far as they did 
not conflict with the new regulations, continued to 
be the "rule of life" for the people of the county. 
They also show that seven alleged " signers "of the 
Mecklenburg Declaration continued to preside in 
the county court, that no new justices were elected 
to this court, and that the court met on the third 
Tuesday 1 of January, April, July, and October, in 
the courthouse in Charlotte the very dates and 
place provided by the May 3ist resolves for the 
meetings of the new judicial and administrative 
body. No doubt the majority of the old committee 
men and military officers were re-elected. This 
fact, with the actual retention of British laws, and 
the natural inference by John McKnitt Alexander 
that independent Mecklenburg county could not 
have been left without laws and civil and military 
officers pending the establishment of a "more 
general and organized government " in the province, 
and an election of new county officers, gave him 
a very erroneous idea of the third, fourth, and fifth 
resolves of May 31, 1 775 ; but near enough the truth 
to make it certain that he was struggling to recall 
them when he wrote his notes. He concluded that 
the committee men " formed a Code of laws by adopt- 

Thursday appears in place of Tuesday in the resolves in the South-Caro- 
lina Gazette And Country Journal of June 13, 1775- This is a misprint, as 
will be seen from both the North-Carolina Gazette of June 16, 1775, and 
Governor Martin's transcript of the resolves in the Cape Fear Mercury, 



The Davie Copy 155 

ing our former wholesome laws," transferred the mil- 
itary officers in a body from the royal to the new 
government, and then, after the fashion of a French 
coup d'etat, declared themselves justices of the 
peace and members of the new committee a pro- 
ceeding not at all in keeping with the character of 
this body of sober, law-abiding, Scotch-Irish Presby- 
terians. Resolves VI to XX concern, for the most 
part, the duties of the new committee men and 
other county officers, and military matters. No one 
would be likely to remember the details. Alexander 
merely noted that " many other laws and ordinances 
were then made." 

An attempt to reconstruct the " Mecklenburg 
Declaration of Independence" from his notes prob- 
ably suggested itself to John McKnitt Alexander 
when writing his impressions of the last of the five 
resolves that he regarded as the most important, 
the greater part of which resolve he wrote in the 
present tense. It may be observed that it was not 
because he remembered the phraseology of the fifth 
resolve of the supposed declaration (the fourth in 
his notes) that he wrote it in the present tense, for, 
if so, we must conclude that he entirely forgot the 
striking expressions of the resolutions containing 
the declaration itself and they are very striking 
while a resolve respecting the appointment and 
duties of civil officers, the longest of the series, was 
indelibly fixed in his memory. There are indica- 
tions that Alexander entrusted to some person of 
greater literary skill than himself the work of pre- 
paring from his notes a more fitting memorial of 



156 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

the " Declaration of Independence" and events 
associated with it. We have seen that corrections in 
the manuscript in the unknown handwriting made 
by the writer show that it was to some extent an 
original composition. How much of it was com- 
posed by the anonymous writer will probably never 
be known. It seems hardly possible that the author 
of the halting, ungrammatical, yet labored, notes 
could have prepared the second paper, which evinces 
an incomparably higher degree of literary ability, 
although the two papers have a similarity of style. 
Moreover, Alexander's notes invariably refer to the 
body that declared independence as a " Committee " 
and to its members as " Committee Men," while the 
other paper speaks of a " delegation " and " dele- 
gates. " It is true that Alexander used the term 
"delegation" in his certificate to the Davie copy, but 
he could consistently use no other when certifying 
a copy of the paper in an unknown handwriting. 
Furthermore, the material part of the last of the 
five resolutions, which the unknown writer copied 
nearly word for word from Alexander's notes, is 
repeated by him immediately after the resolution, 
as appears below, and the term " Committee-man " 
is enclosed in quotation marks, both of which facts 
would seem to show that he did not comprehend 
the meaning of the term. The unknown writer also 
used the word " unanimously," instead of " Nem. 
Con," which appears in the notes. If this paper was 
prepared by some person other than John McKnitt 
Alexander, that person learned from Alexander 
facts which are not stated in the notes. Whether 



The Davie Copy 157 

the corrections, the superior literary merit, and the 
words different from those used in the notes to 
express the same thing prove merely that it is a 
transcript, with slight changes made by the person 
who transcribed it, of a second draft of the notes 
prepared by Alexander himself, or that this paper 
is the original second draft, is a matter of minor im- 
portance, since we know that it is based on the 
notes. 

The genesis of the so-called Davie copy of the 
Mecklenburg Declaration, which for thirty-four 
years wore all the honors of a genuine and authentic 
document, which was pointed out as such to the aged 
men who were asked to say that they heard it pro- 
claimed in Charlotte on May 20, 1775, which was 
affirmed to be such by the Legislature of North 
Carolina in 1831, and which still has champions 
who seem to be ignorant of John McKnitt Alex- 
ander's certificate to the manuscript which he gave 
to General Davie, is demonstrated by placing it 
side by side with Alexander's notes : 

Alexander's Notes. The Reconstructed Document. 

i. That whosoever directly 
or indirectly abetted, or in any 
way, form, or manner, coun- 
tenanced the unchartered and 
dangerous invasion of our 
rights, as claimed by G. brit- 
ain is an enemy to this Coun- 
ty to America and to the 
inherent and inaliable rights 
of man. 



158 The Mecklenburg Declaration 



I s . 1 We (the County) by a 
abjured 

Solemn and awfull vote, Dis- 
solved our allegiance to King 
George & the British Nation. 



2? Declared ourselves a free 
& independent people, having 
a right and capable to govern 
ourselves (as a part of North 
Carolina). 



3? In order to have laws as 
a rule of life for our future 
Government We formed a 
Code of laws ; by adopting 
our former wholesome laws. 



2 We the Citizens of Meek- 

do de 

lenburg County are- hereby ab~ 

the 

solved f*em political bands 
which have connected us with 
the Mother Country, and here- 
by absolve ourselves from 
all allegiance to the British 
Crown, and abjure all polit- 
ical connection, contract, or 
association 

dependence with that nation 
who have wantonly trampled 
on our rights and liberties 
and inhumanly shed the in- 
nocent blood of American 
patriots at Lexington. 

3 We do hereby declare 
ourselves a free and inde- 
pendent people, are, and of 
right ought to be, a sovereign 
and self-governing Associa- 
tion, under the control of no 
power other than that of our 
God and the General Gov- 
ernment of the gen congress 
to the maintainance of which 
independance civil & religious 
we solemnly pledge to each 
other, our mutual co-opera- 
tion, our lives, our fortunes, 
and our most sacred honor. 

4 As we now acknowledge 
the existance & controul of 
no law or legal officer, civil 
or military, within this county, 
we do hereby ordain and 



The Davie Copy 



then 

4* And as there was ^ no 
Officers civil or Millitary in 
our County 

We Decreed that every 
Millitia officer in s? County 
should hold and occupy his 
former commission and Grade 
And that every member pre- 
sent, of this Committee shall 
henceforth [torn] as a Justice 
of the Peace in the Character 
of a Committee M \torn\ hear 
and determine all Controver- 
sies agreeable to s? laws 
\iorn\ peace Union & harmony 
in s? County and to use every 
\torn\ spread the Electrial fire 
of freedom among ourselves 
& u \torn\. 



the 

5* -M &? &? many other 
laws & ordinances were then 
ma [torn]. 



adopt, as a rule of life, all 
each and every of our former 
laws, wherein, nevertheless, 
the Crown of great britain 

never can 

nevertheless can & ought be 
considered as holding rights, 
privileges, immunities, or au- 
thority therein. 

5 It is also further de- 
creed, that all, each and every 
military officer in this county 
is hereby reinstated to his 
former command and author- 
ity, he acting conformably to 
these regulations. And that 
every member present of this 

be 

delegation shall henceforth aet 
civil officer e* viz s 
as-^ a Justice of the Peace, 
in the character of a "Com- 
mittee-man ", to hear issue 
process, hear and determine 
all matters of controversy, 
according to said adopted 
laws, and to preserve peace, 
and union, and harmony, in 
said county, and to use every 
exertion to spread the love of 
country and fire of freedom 
throughout America, until a 
more general and organized 
government be established in 
this State province. 

A selection from the mem- 
shall 
bers present was constituted a 



160 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

Committee of public safety 
for s? County. 

A number of bye laws were 
also added, merely to protect 
the association from confu- 
sion, and to regulate their 
general conduct as citizens. 

The design of the author of the paper in an un- 
known handwriting, whoever he may have been, 
was apparently to construct from the notes a decla- 
ration of independence as "flaming," as Jefferson 
called it, as he could make it. Of the four resolu- 
tions recollected by Alexander, the last two form 
substantially the concluding resolutions of the reha- 
bilitated document. Its fifth and last resolution, the 
longest in the series, is in great part word for word 
as it appears in Alexander's notes. These two 
resolutions concerned laws and county officers and 
required little original work by the unknown writer. 
But the subject-matter of the first two offered so 
attractive a field for the writer's imagination and 
rhetoric that they were extended into three resolu- 
tions and altered almost beyond recognition. Some 
of the most striking and best known phrases of the 
Declaration of July 4, 1776, were introduced into 
the reconstructed document. At that early day, 
the phraseology of the Declaration of Independence 
was well known, and the writer of this paper could 
find no other words for the declaration of Mecklen- 
burg. These three short resolutions contain such 
expressions of Jefferson's immortal document as 
" unalienable Rights," "dissolve the political bands 
which have connected," " Absolved from all Allegi- 



The Davie Copy 161 

ance to the British Crown, " "all political connexion," 
" are, and of Right, ought to be," and " we mutually 
pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our 
sacred Honour." None of these expressions are to be 
found in John McKnitt Alexander s notes. It was 
perceived as early as 1819 that they were too nu- 
merous and peculiar in structure to be accidental 
coincidences. "Either these resolutions are a 
plagiarism from Mr. Jefferson's Declaration of In- 
dependence," said John Adams, 1 "or Mr. Jefferson's 
Declaration of Independence is a plagiarism from 
those resolutions. I could as soon believe that the 
dozen flowers of Hydrangea, now before my eyes, 
were the work of chance, as that the Mecklenburg 
resolutions and Mr. Jefferson's Declaration were 
not derived the one from the other." For many 
years the contestants in the acrimonious controversy 
as to whether Jefferson was guilty of plagiarism 
were unaware that Richard Henry Lee is the 
author of nearly all of these phrases upon which 
the accusation was founded. 2 

In treating the genesis of the manuscript in an 
unknown handwriting we have assumed that Dr. 
Joseph McKnitt Alexander was truthful in his cer- 
tificate to the effect that he found it with his father's 
notes in the condition shown by the reproductions, 
that he did not recognize the handwriting, that two 
corrections on it were made by his father, and that 
it was "perfectly the same" as the Davie paper as 
far as the Davie paper was preserved. In the ab- 

1 Adams to William Bentley, August 21, 1819 ; IVorks^ x., 383. 
9 Lee's resolution for independence, July 2, 1776. 
II 



162 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

sence of the original Davie paper in John McKnitt 
Alexander's handwriting the often repeated charges 
of fraud and forgery against the younger Alexander 
must be considered. These charges were privately 
maintained by no less a person than Professor 
Charles Phillips, who enjoyed the privilege of ex- 
amining the originals of all these documents when 
they were in the possession of Governor Swain. In 
the volume in the Bancroft Collection which con- 
tains the transcripts reproduced above, and im- 
mediately before them, is inserted a letter of Henry 
S. Randall to Bancroft, dated February 7, 1859, en- 
closing a copy of a letter written by Professor 
Phillips to Randall from the University of North 
Carolina under date of April 15, 1858. Professor 
Phillips says that when he wrote his article for 
the North Carolina University Magazine of May, 
1853, he felt, like Governor Swain, "that all of 
the story about the 2oth of May could not stand 
before cool and fair criticism, and especially that 
the Davie paper, in either form, would not be en- 
dorsed by any proper jury in the land." " To 
me," he writes "the assertion, or insinuation, that 
Jefferson ever borrowed from Mecklenburg is just 
ridiculous, and so it is to Gov. Swain and many 
others of our best informed men in N. C. Had old 
McN. Alexander's son been as honorable as was his 
father, we never would have heard of such an as- 
sertion. The condition of the originals in our pos- 
session here, the diversity of hand writing, the fre- 
quent interlineations, erasures etc. show that the 
younger Alexander tried to set forth a poem in 



The Davie Copy 163 

Alexandrian measured But the old man's honesty 
(see p. 1 75 of that pamphlet) 2 doubtless was sadly 
in the young man's way. The truth is, I judge, not 
far from this. The son had not long come home 
from Princeton College ; the father's house and all 
the records were burnt; the father and other sur- 
vivors felt that some memento of their deeds in '75 
must be preserved. So the son sat down to repro- 
duce the Declaration of Mecklenburg, but was 
mistaken as to date and form. The date was to be 
gotten only from memory ; the form as we see, was 
influenced by the then well known General decla- 
ration." The originals referred to by Professor 
Phillips are obviously those from which the tran- 
scripts found with his letter were made. This is 
confirmed by a note in Randall's Life of Thomas 
Jefferson? 

Professor Phillips appears to have believed that 
Dr. Joseph McKnitt Alexander prepared under his 
father's guidance the narrative and resolutions 
contained in the manuscript in an unknown hand- 
writing ; that after his father's death he destroyed 

1 Randall says in his letter to Bancroft that he added the underscoring 
when copying Prof. Phillips' letter. 

8 The reference is to the certificate to the Davie paper, printed in the 
North Carolina University Magazine, May, 1853, ii, 175. 

8 Randall says (iii, 574): "We are informed by one who has often 
seen Mr. Alexander's manuscripts on this subject that they exhibit a diver- 
sity of hand-writing, frequent interlineations, erasures, etc. Whether this 
applies to the resolutions themselves we are not specially apprised, but 
suppose our informant intended such application. " The following extract 
from his letter to Bancroft may account for Bancroft's silence: " As I re- 
marked, Prof. P's letter is not marked confidential, but you will of course 
take good care that he is not brought into danger by his his [sic] frankness.. 
The publication of his remarks would probably cost him his professorship." 1 



1 64 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

a copy of the certificate to the Davie paper which 
stated that they were written from memory, and 
that he altered his father's notes and the manu- 
script in an unknown handwriting so as to make 
them say that his father acted as clerk of the meet- 
ing to which they refer, and that Colonel Adam 
Alexander issued the order for the meeting. Pro- 
fessor Phillips inferred that Dr. Alexander had a 
copy of his father's certificate to the Davie paper, 
from its resemblance to his certificate to the docu- 
ment published in the Raleigh Register in 1819, 
which certificate purported to state facts which he 
found " mentioned on file." " He told the truth 
about it," wrote Professor Phillips in 1879,* "but 
not the whole truth, and so conveyed to his readers 
something besides the truth." Such authorities as 
Draper, Goodloe, and Welling have likewise al- 
leged or insinuated that the younger Alexander 
made an improper condensation of a certificate like 
that appended to the Davie paper. 2 But, if their 
suspicions be well founded, why did he not also 
suppress and destroy the certificate to the Davie 
paper itself, which was in his possession during 
nearly all the period from the date of its discovery 
until 1830? The "Alexandrian measure" in the 
story of the Mecklenburg Declaration was prob- 
ably the main cause of Professor Phillips's distrust 
of Dr. Alexander. He no doubt assumed that 
John McKnitt Alexander could not have fancied 

1 Phillips to P. B. Means, May 20, 1879, in " May, 1775" 27. 

* Draper's manuscript work ; Goodloe, in N. Y. Herald, May 8, 1875 ; 
Welling, in the Mag. of Amer. Hist., xxi., 223-224. Cf. Joseph Wallis, 
in the National Intelligencer, August 13, 1857. 



The Davie Copy 165 

that he, instead of Ephraim Brevard, was secretary 
of a meeting on so momentous a subject, and that 
Lieutenant-Colonel Adam Alexander instead of 
Colonel Thomas Polk, issued the order for it. 
The parts taken by Brevard, Polk, and Abraham 
Alexander are established by the personal testi- 
mony of spectators at the meeting, which testimony 
we have reserved for critical analysis. It is difficult 
to conjecture what might have been the foundation 
for John McKnitt Alexander's reminiscences, but 
it cannot on that account be denied that when he 
wrote his notes in 1800 he believed that he had 
acted as secretary of the meeting which was in his 
thoughts. He is known to have been an active 
participant in that meeting and secretary and chair- 
man of similar meetings of the period, 1 and it is 
very probable that he succeeded Brevard as clerk 
of the Mecklenburg Committee of Safety. Gov- 
ernor Swain's theory was that there was a pre- 
liminary meeting which agreed upon the general 
principles formulated on May 31, 1775, and that 
John McKnitt Alexander was secretary. 2 Strong 
evidence that Alexander often stated that he had 
been secretary of the famous meeting is the belief 
of William B. Alexander, brother of " J. McKnitt," 
that his father had acted as such, 3 and the testi- 
mony given after the fact had been called in ques- 
tion by two such intelligent witnesses to the meeting 
as General Joseph Graham and Rev. Humphrey 

1 Captain Jack's certificate, and Col. Rec. of N. C., x., 8700. 

* Swain to B. J. Lossing, December 20, 1851, Bancroft Coll. 

* Ante, p. 2. 



1 66 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

Hunter, who were his neighbors and friends. With 
respect to the condition of the original manuscripts, 
which Professor Phillips thought to be proof of a 
posthumous introduction of "Alexandrian measure,'* 
it may be said that the transcript of John McKnitt 
Alexander's notes shows clearly that his initials 
and the word * 'secretary" were written later than the 
context ; but no diversity of handwriting is noted 
by the copyist. It is also evident that if the copy- 
ist noted even the most conspicuous erasures and 
it seems to have been his purpose to note every- 
thing of that nature the allusions to Colonel 
Adam Alexander and John McKnitt Alexander 
in the manuscript in an unknown handwriting, and 
to the former in the notes, originally belonged to 
those papers. Professor Phillips's case cannot be 
proved by such flimsy evidence as this. 

The reproduction of the manuscript in an un- 
known handwriting makes it well-nigh certain that 
if John McKnitt Alexander never recollected that 
he was secretary of a meeting of May 20, 1775, he 
never saw that manuscript, and the Davie paper 
contained something very different in form, perhaps 
the rough notes, for the manuscript in an unknown 
handwriting bore internal evidence of original com- 
position by the writer. Professor Phillips, however, 
arrived at another conclusion. This would seem to 
indicate that he did not examine the manuscript 
carefully. His letter to Randall shows that he be- 
lieved that it was a copy of a paper prepared by 
the younger Alexander under his father's direction 
and that it was once in John McKnitt Alexander's 



The Davie Copy 167 

possession and was altered after his death. In his 
contribution to the North Carolina University 
Magazine of May, 1853, Professor Phillips said 
with reference to the resolutions of May 20, 1775 : 
"The * Davie copy* was first published in the 
Raleigh Register in April, 1819, and it is so named 
because the last two of its resolutions were found 
on a mutilated manuscript among the papers of the 
late General W. R. Davie." He did not say how 
much of the narrative in the Davie manuscript 
was preserved in 1853, and copied into his article 
nothing but the certificate ; but in a letter written 
twenty-six years afterwards he erroneously stated 
that the manuscript was entire when Governor 
Swain first saw it. 1 His letter to Randall and the 
manner in which the Raleigh Registers copy of 
the resolutions, prepared by Dr. Alexander from 
the manuscript in an unknown handwriting, are 
treated in his article in connection with the certifi- 
cate to the Davie paper, evince his belief that, with 
the exception of the "Alexandrian measure," the 
Davie paper originally contained what appears in 
the manuscript in an unknown handwriting. But 
the traces of original work by the unknown writer 
are so discernible even in his last two resolutions 
as to lead to no other conclusion than that the two 
papers could not have been identical with respect to 
these resolutions, as Professor Phillips says they 
were, if the unknown writer's was of later date than 
the Davie paper and never in the elder Alexander's 
hands. It is indeed remarkable that the resolutions 

1 Phillips to P. B. Means, May 20, 1879. 



i68 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

missing from the mutilated Davie paper were the 
very ones which contain most of the expressions 
borrowed from Jefferson's Declaration, and that one 
of those which remained, the last, was the one most 
like its parallel in John McKnitt Alexander's notes. 
We have seen, however, that the last resolution of 
the notes and the last of the anonymous paper might 
be expected to be found resembling each other more 
closely than any others. 

A week before the date of Professor Phillips's 
letter to Randall, Governor Swain wrote Randall 
in answer to a request for a statement of his views 
on the Mecklenburg Declaration, or permission to 
publish his letters to Bancroft. 1 As the subject was 
soon to be treated by himself and Dr. Francis L. 
Hawks in the latter's History of North Carolina, 
he did not feel at liberty to comply. With respect 
to the original Davie paper he wrote: 

You remark that the main question, so far as Mr. Jefferson 
is concerned, is this : " Is the Alexander copy of the Mecklen- 
burg Resolutions genuine?" The paper is unquestionably genu- 
ine. I have it before me, in the well-known hand-writing of 
John McKnitt Alexander. But what is it? It is not the record 
of the Mecklenburg Committee that perished in the fire which 
consumed Mr. Alexander's home in April, 1800; and this paper 
bears date in the following September. It is not a transcript, 
therefore, of the original record. If it be the copy of a copy, 
the inquiry presents itself, of that copy: How authenticated? 
Where, when, and by whom taken? Does it purport to be a 
copy, or is it simply upon the face of it the most accurate 
narrative which Mr. Alexander's memory could supply of the 
transactions to which it relates ? 

1 Swain to Randall, Chapel Hill, April 6, 1858, in Tompkins, History 
of MeckUnburg County, ii, 53-54; copied from the Draper MSS. 



The Davie Copy 169 

The results of the investigations made by the 
North Carolina legislative committee of 1830-31, 
published in July, 1831, in the State Pamphlet, 
afford ample proof that as much of the mutilated 
Davie paper as remained when it was unearthed, 
which seems to have been more than Professor 
Phillips found in 1853, agreed in every respect with 
the manuscript in an unknown handwriting. The 
report of the committee strangely omitted to men- 
tion John McKnitt Alexander's certificate to the 
Davie paper. This has led some to believe that 
the committee never saw the original paper, and 
that it took the younger Alexander's word for its 
statements about the paper. But the editors of the 
State Pamphlet reprinted under " A" the document 
published in the Raleigh Register of April 30, 1819, 
and under "B" this certificate and note : 

State of North Carolina, 
Mecklenburg County. 

I, Samuel Henderson, do hereby certify that the paper an- 
nexed was obtained by me from Maj. William Davie in its 
present situation, soon after the death of his father, Gen. Wil- 
liam R. Davie, and given to Doct. Joseph McKnitt by me. In 
searching for some particular paper, I came across this, and, 
knowing the hand-writing of John McKnitt Alexander, took 
it up and examined it. Maj. Davie said to me (when asked 
how it became torn) his sisters had torn it, not knowing what 
it was. 

Given under my hand this 25th Nov., 1830. 

SAM. HENDERSON. 

NOTE. To this certificate of Doct. Henderson is annexed 
the copy of the paper A, originally deposited by John McKnitt 
Alexander in the hands of Gen. Davie^ whose name seems to 
have been mistaken by Mr. Jefferson for that of Gov. 



170 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

Caswell. See preface, pages 5, and 6. This paper is somewhat 
torn, but is entirely legible, and constitutes the " solemn and 
positive proof of authenticity " which Mr. Jefferson required, 
and which would doubtless have been satisfactory, had it been 
submitted to him. 

Dr. Henderson's certificate refers to the original 
Davie paper as the one to which it was annexed, 
and the note's statement that it is annexed to the 
"copy of the paper A" must be construed to have 
reference to that copy of " A. " This is confirmed by 
Governor Stokes, who says in the preface to the 
State Pamphlet, written for him by Governor Swain: 
44 this identical copy, known by the writer of these 
remarks to be in the handwriting of John McKnitt 
Alexander, one of the secretaries of the Mecklen- 
burg meeting, is now in the Executive Office of 
this State. (See Dr. Henderson's certificate, B.)" 
Dr. Joseph McKnitt Alexander's certificate to his 
father's notes and the manuscript in an unknown 
handwriting, like Dr. Henderson's, is dated Meck- 
lenburg county, November 25, 1830, and both were 
no doubt sent to the legislative committee on 
that day with the documents to which they refer. 
Alexander said in his certificate : " As to the full 
sheet being in an unknown hand write, it matters 
not who may have thus copyed the original record. 
by comparing the copy deposited with Genl. Davie 
they two will be found so perfectly the same, so far as 

his is preserved^ that no imposition is possible 

the entire sheet is most probably a copy taken long 
since from the original for some person, corrected by 
Jno. McKnitt Alexander, and now sent on." Since 
the committee said it examined all documents which 



The Davie Copy 171 

were accessible, we must believe that it was after 
making the comparison thus invited that it con- 
cluded that the Davie paper originally contained all 
that appears in the manuscript in an unknown hand- 
writing ; and the honesty of Dr. Joseph McKnitt 
Alexander can no longer be questioned. The cor- 
rections, interlineations, and erasures in the manu- 
script in an unknown handwriting are in keeping 
with its character as a draft of the Davie copy, but 
certainly out of place in a paper fabricated to pass 
as a transcript of an original record. 

The story of the 2oth of May, 1775, was told by 
John McKnitt Alexander to many persons after he 
wrote his rough notes in 1800. Any evidence that 
this date was known as the date of the Mecklenburg 
Declaration before the publication made in 1819 is 
thus accounted for. We have seen that it is con- 
firmed by no evidence up to the time of Alexander's 
writing. It has been suggested that he recollected 
that date because May 2Oth, Old Style, is the same 
as May 3ist, New Style, and that the Julian calen- 
dar, which was abolished in England in 1752, may 
have been used by some persons in the frontier 
county of Mecklenburg as late as 1775, which fact 
Alexander forgot. At some time after the Davie 
copy was written Alexander related the story of the 
Mecklenburg Declaration to Judge Duncan Came- 
ron, an eminent North Carolina jurist. He in- 
formed Cameron that he had given a copy of the 
declaration to General Davie, and said, " The docu- 
ment is safe." 1 This incident has led some to be- 

1 Gov. Graham's Address, 51; Dr. Hawks' s Lecture 85. 



i7 2 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

lieve that the Davie paper was an extract from 
an original record. On June i, 1809, at the com- 
mencement exercises of Sugar Creek Academy, 
three miles from Charlotte, a pupil recited an ad- 
dress containing a paragraph relating to the Meck- 
lenburg Declaration which was evidently prepared 
from the account in the manuscript in an unknown 
handwriting, perhaps by Alexander himself. This 
is the address published in the Raleigh Minerva of 
August 10, 1 809,* to which Dr. Joseph McKnitt 
Alexander refers in his certificate to the manuscript 
in an unknown handwriting. He no doubt found 
the newspaper among his father's papers. Sugar 
Creek Academy was conducted by the Rev. Samuel 
C. Caldwell, a son-in-law of John McKnitt Alex- 
ander, and his pupil, the youthful orator, is believed 

1 A copy of this newspaper is now in possession of a family descended 
from its publisher, William Boylan. I am indebted to Mr. A. S. Salley, Jr., 
for a full copy of the address printed therein. The following is the refer- 
ence to the Mecklenburg Declaration : 

"On the igth of May 1776, a day sacredly exulting to every Mecklen- 
burg bosom, two delegates duly authorised from every militia company in 
this county met in Charlotte. After a cool and deliberate investigation of 
the causes and extent of our differences with G. Britain, and taking a view 
of the probable result; pledging their all in support of their rights and 
liberties ; they solemnly entered into and published a full and determined 
declaration of Independence, renouncing forever all allegiance, depen- 
dence on or connection with Great Britain ; dissolved all judicial and mili- 
tary establishments emanating from the British crown ; established others 
on principles correspondent with their declaration, which went into imme- 
diate operation : All which were transmitted to Congress by express, and 
probably expedited the general declaration of Independence. May we ever 
act worthy of such predecessors." A comparison of this passage with the 
historical note in the manuscript in an unknown handwriting shows that the 
facts it states were derived from that note. A foot-note to the address says 
that, as it was not " first intended for publication, extracts were not 
noted." 



The Davie Copy 173 

to have been James Wallis, l son of the Rev. James 
Wallis, another son-in-law of John McKnitt Alex- 
ander. The Rev. James Wallis was at the head of 
a school at Providence settlement, near Charlotte. 2 
His son Joseph of Chapel Hill, Texas, said in a let- 
ter published in the National Intelligencer of Au- 
gust 13, 1857, that he remembered seeing his father 
stamp on Williamson's History of North Carolina 
because it did not contain a carefully prepared ac- 
count of the Mecklenburg Declaration by John Mc- 
Knitt Alexander. A former student at the school 
of the Rev. James Wallis informed William A. 
Graham in 1875 that he heard John McKnitt Alex- 
ander, on the occasion of a visit of a month at Provi- 
dence in 1813, relate the circumstances of the declar- 
ation of May 20, I775- 3 John McKnitt Alexander 
died J uly i o, 1817. During the last five or six years 
of his life he was nearly blind and very infirm. 4 

Thus through John McKnitt Alexander did the 
myth of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Indepen- 
dence, which had its rise in the Revolutionary 
period, gain wider credence in Mecklenburg county, 
and thus was the way paved for the unanimity with 
which men accepted the document published in 1819 
as genuine and authentic. 

1 Geo. W. Graham : The Mecklenburg Declaration, 33-35. 

a Our Living and Our Dead, iii, 193 ; Foote's Sketches of North Carolina 
248, 250. 

8 Gov. Graham's Address, 51-52. 

4 Geo. W. Graham : The Mecklenburg Declaration, 114 ; copied from 
Lyman C. Draper's manuscript work on the Mecklenburg Declaration. 



CHAPTER X 

THE MARTIN AND GARDEN COPIES 

RECENT advocates of the authenticity of the 
Mecklenburg Declaration admit that the Davie 
copy was written from memory in 1800 by John 
McKnitt Alexander, but claim that it is " fundamen- 
tally correct," as Alexander certified it to be. The 
authentic copy, they argue, is to be found in 
Franois Xavier Martin's History of North Caro- 
lina, published in New Orleans in 1829, and in the 
second series of Alexander Garden's Anecdotes of the 
American Revolution, published in Charleston, S. C., 
in 1828. It is in form an emendation, with an ad- 
ditional resolution, of the series published in 1819^ 
or Davie copy. Having seen from John McKnitt 
Alexander's rough notes that he had no recollection 
of the phraseology of the document, whatever it was, 
which he understood to be a declaration of inde- 
pendence, and knowing that the Davie copy was 
constructed from those notes, we might be justified 
in dismissing without inquiry a paper which is for 
the most part literally the same as the Davie copy. 
But the testimony of Frangois Xavier Martin is 
cited to prove that he obtained his copy before 
1800, the year in which the Davie copy was written. 
Although Martin's history appeared ten years 

174 



The Martin and Garden Copies 175 

after the resolutions were published in the Raleigh 
Register, the author states in his preface that his 
work was written between 1791 and 1809, when he 
was a resident of North Carolina. In 1809 he was 
appointed a Federal judge in Mississippi, and a 
year later transferred to Louisiana. He had hoped, 
according to his preface, to resume the work he 
began in North Carolina, but, because of ill health 
and the demands of public duties upon his time, 
"The determination has been taken," he said, "to 
put the work immediately to press in the condition 
it was when it reached New Orleans : this has pre- 
vented any use being made of Williamson's History 
of North Carolina [published in 1812], a copy of 
which did not reach the writer's hands till after his 
arrival in Louisiana." In his lecture before the 
New York Historical Society in 1852, the Rev. 
Francis L. Hawks testified from his conversations 
with Judge Martin that Martin obtained the Meck- 
lenburg resolutions " in manuscript, from the west- 
ern part of North Carolina, and procured them, as 
he did most of his other materials, before the year 
1800." 1 In his address at Charlotte on May 20, 
1857, Dr. Hawks stated that he particularly ques- 
tioned Judge Martin as to the source whence he 
procured his copy, and that Martin told him " not 
from Alexander," but from some one in the western 
part of North Carolina, prior to 1800. Martin in- 
formed him in the last year of his life, he said, that 
he did not give a copy to Alexander Garden, or 
even know that Garden had printed the same reso- 

1 Cooke, 62-63. 



.A ^ 

*f<y, 



176 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

lutions. Dr. Hawks gave more details in 1857 than 
he did in 1852, but he seems to have cautiously 
omitted on the second occasion to say whether 
Martin told him that he obtained his copy in manu- 
script or printed form. 1 

While Martin may not have added any original 
matter to his History of North Carolina after his 
arrival in Louisiana, it can be demonstrated, we be- 
lieve, that the Mecklenburg resolutions and accom- 
panying narrative printed in his work were written 
after 1819, and that they did not reach the hands 
of Martin or Garden until 1821 or later. Martin's 
preface may be accounted for as containing un- 
guarded statements intended to explain the careless 
manner with which the work was written and the 
author's failure to make use of Williamson's history. 
Martin's statements to Dr. Hawks were made in 
1846, or shortly before, when Martin was in his 
eighty-fifth year, totally blind, and his memory 
"somewhat impaired," according to one who knew 
him intimately. It is most likely that leading ques- 
tions, the remoteness of the circumstance of which 
he spoke, and the fact that he was the author or 
compiler of thirty-seven volumes, 2 led him to con- 
fuse the Mecklenburg resolutions with some other 
paper. After reading the graphic sketch of Martin 
in his dotage written by Charles Gayarre, 8 one can 

1 The principal parts of the address were published in the Charlotte 
Democrat, May 26, 1857, and reprinted in the Charlotte Daily Observer, 
May 20, 1906. 

3 Prof. F. M. Hubbard in the N. C. Univ. Mag., October, 1852, 350; 
and H. A. Bullard's Discourse on the Life and Character of the Hon. 
Francois Xavier Martin (1847), 29. 

3 Fernando De Lemos. Truth and Fiction (New York, 1875). 



The Martin and Garden Copies 177 

scarcely hold Martin responsible for any statements 
made by him at that period. If this be not the true 
explanation, then Martin deliberately lied. It has 
been shown that he made false statements in his 
History of North Carolina, to prove a theory, when 
authentic facts were actually before him. 1 In 1842, 
Governor Swain wrote Martin requesting to be in- 
formed when and by whom his copy of the Mecklen- 
burg resolutions was furnished, but his letter was 
ignored. 2 

Martin's History of North Carolina is a compila- 
tion which has no pretensions to anything higher 
than a mere chronological arrangement of materials, 
with no attempt to set forth events in any other 
relation. Documents of the Revolutionary period 
are copied into it nearly word for word, but without 
quotation marks. The account of the Mecklen- 
burg Declaration opens Chapter XI of the second 
volume, the last chapter of the work. Chapter X, 
which precedes, records events from the meeting of 
the Continental Congress in September, 1774, to 
September, 1775. The account of the Mecklenburg 
Declaration should therefore have been incorpo- 
rated in this chapter in order to follow the plan of 
the work. No event other than the Mecklenburg 
Declaration which occurred during the period cov- 
ered by this chapter is recorded elsewhere. In its 
position at the beginning of the succeeding chapter 

1 Stephen B. Weeks : Southern Quakers and Slavery (Johns Hopkins 
Univ. Studies in Hist, and Polit. Science, extra vol. xv.), 32-33, 

8 Swain to B. J. Lossing, December 20, 1851. Transcript in Bancroft 
MSS., N. Y. Pub. Lib. 
12 





1 78 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

it stands wholly unrelated to the accompanying 
narrative. Chapter X closes with an account of 
the proceedings of the Provincial Congress, and 
the last words are : " The Congress rose on the 
1 9th of September" (i 775). The chronological rec- 
ord is resumed in Chapter XI with an account of 
the proceedings of the Continental Congress in the 
same month, which opens with the statement that 
"The Continental Congress met on the i3th of 
September." Between these two sentences is in- 
serted the account of the Mecklenburg Declaration, 
which recites incidents which occurred from March, 
1775, to the middle of the Revolutionary War. 
The most reasonable inference from these facts is 
that the latter sentence originally opened Chapter 
XI, and that the account of the Mecklenburg 
Declaration reached the author's hands after the 
work was completed, and was inserted where it 
would not necessitate any change in the text. This 
is confirmed by the palpable ignorance of a declara- 
tion of independence by Mecklenburg county which 
Martin exhibits in the last two chapters. In 
Chapter X he mentions the violent resolutions of 
the Committees of Wilmington and New-Bern, but 
has not a word to say about the declaration of in- 
dependence which is alleged to have emanated 
about the same time from Mecklenburg. In Chap- 
ter XI he speaks of the receipt of the news of 
the Declaration of Independence from Philadelphia 
with no comment on a previous declaration by a 
county of North Carolina. "Thus," he says, in 
connection with the Declaration of July 4, 1776, 



The Martin and Garden Copies 179 

" ended the royal government in the province of 
North Carolina, . . ." At the end of each of 
these last two chapters Martin cites " Records. 
Magazines. Gazettes" as his sources of informa- 
tion. 

Having seen that Martin's history bears internal 
evidence which seems to show that the Mecklenburg 
resolutions and accompanying narrative were in- 
serted at the beginning of the last chapter after the 
work was completed, we will inquire into the history 
of the document which we hold to be the original 
Martin copy. The Raleigh Register of Friday, 
August 13, 1819, published the following editorial 
announcement : " Mecklenburg Declaration of In- 
dependence. The public will doubtless be gratified 
to learn that Colonel WILLIAM POLK, of this city, 
(who was present at the meeting in Mecklenburg 
County when the Declaration of Independence was 
agreed upon in May, 1775) is preparing for publi- 
cation some further information in relation to that 
Declaration. We understand that the Colonel will 
give the names of the Delegates, and an account of 
the proceedings of the Committees subsequently, 
until a regular government was established ; and 
correct some misstatements in the publication al- 
ready made on this subject in the Register of the 
3Oth of April last, and which has lately been the 
subject of remark in Northern papers." Although 
completed in a few days after this announcement 
was made, Colonel Folk's narrative did not appear 
in the Raleigh Register. It was sent by him to his 
intimate friend Judge Archibald DeBow Murphey, 



T8o The Mecklenburg Declaration 

of Haw River, N. C., at whose instance it was pre- 
pared, with the following letter * : 

Raleigh, August 18, 1819. 
My dear Sir, 

It has not been in my power to bestow as much time on 
the subjects mentioned in your memorandum of the i6th ult. 
as I could have wished, and what I have written is so crudely 
put together, without form, grammar and orthography, with 
numberless interlineations & erasures, that I fear you will not 
be able [to] glean any thing worth your observations. I have 
been too much hurried in my preparation for Tennessee to 
give to any thing else much of my time. 

I am not sufficiently acquainted with the Biography of Gen. 
Davie to give you such an account of him as would be suf- 
ficiently interesting ; nor am I well enough acquainted with 
the history of the establishment of the present boundary be- 
tween the States of N & S Carolina to say any thing worthy 
of the subject. 

The History of our University : you are in possession of 
all I could say on that subject. 

I set out on Sunday for Nashville, to be gone I do not 
know how long. I wish you, my D r Sir, much health & 
happiness. very respectfully, 

Will: Polk. 

[Addressed : A. D. Murphey, Esq.] 

This letter shows that Colonel Folk's narrative 
was an original composition written at the request 
of Judge Murphey, and that Judge Murphey ex- 
pected to " glean " from it something worthy of his 
"observations," that is, to prepare something for 
publication on the subject which it treated. The 

1 The original letter and narrative are in the Emmet Collection, N. Y- 
Pub. Lib. (Em. 1493.) They were purchased by Dr. Thomas Addis Em- 
met in 1889 from an autograph dealer of New York who obtained the bulk 
of the papers left by Judge Murphey in Hillsboro, N. C. 



The Martin and Garden Copies 181 

Raleigh Register editorial also shows that it was 
written for publication. 

Colonel Folk's account of the Mecklenburg De- 
claration has not been found in a complete file of 
the Raleigh Register from 1819 to 1830, nor in 
broken files of several other North Carolina news- 
papers which are now extant. The original manu- 
script, however, bears the indorsement " published " 
in Judge Murphey's handwriting. It had not 
been published up to February 18, 1820, for Judge 
Murphey wrote Colonel Polk on that date * : " I 
hope you will find time during the year to write 
much more on the subjects on which you favored 
me with several sheets during the last summer. 
As soon as I can get my business arranged, I in- 
tend to devote much of my time to these subjects 
and others connected with the History of the 
State." In the fall of 1820, Murphey conceived the 
project of writing a great historical and scien- 
tific work on North Carolina, a work for which his 
scholarship, his philosophic mind, his facility in 
composition, and his love for the State of North 
Carolina pre-eminently qualified him. He collected 
much material, consisting in a large measure of the 
reminiscences of surviving Revolutionary officers, 
but poverty and ill health ended his labors about 
1828 and carried him to the grave in February, 
1832. In January, 1821, he began to publish in 
the Hillsboro Recorder the narratives of some of 

1 The original letter is in the possession of the writer, who has a large 
part of the correspondence of Judge Murphey and is preparing a biography 
of him. See his sketch of Murphey in the Biographical History of N. C.+ 
iv., 340-348. 



1 82 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

these old men. This newspaper was established 
at Hillsboro, about fifteen miles from Judge 
Murphey 's home, in February, I82O, 1 previous to 
which time there were no newspapers published in 
North Carolina west of Raleigh for a number of 
years. It appears that Colonel Folk's narrative was 
published in this paper. Judge Murphey wrote 
General Joseph Graham, July 20, 1821, that he 
published in the Hillsboro Recorder in March, 1821, 
an " account * of the first Revolutionary move- 
ments,' " and that the printer " made a mistake 
and said, 'in the United States,' instead of 'in 
this State.'" 2 As the opening words of Colonel 
Folk's narrative are, " The first revolutionary move- 
ments in this State as far as recollection serves," 
and as the original manuscript is indorsed by 
Colonel Polk, " First revolutionary movements, 
&c.", this was undoubtedly the narrative to which 
Judge Murphey referred. Additional evidence is 
afforded by the fact that he wrote Colonel Polk 
on July 24, 1821 : "I have requested Mr. Heart, 
the Editor of the Hillsboro Recorder, to send 
you his paper, commencing with the latter part 
of January." 3 

The account of the Mecklenburg Declaration in 
Colonel Polk's manuscript sketch of the first revolu- 

1 Raleigh Register ', February 18, 1820. 

* Col. Ree. of N. C., xix., 975-978. Cf. N. C. Univ. Mag., December, 
1854, 447-448. 

* From the original letter in the writer's possession. A very incomplete 
file of the Hillsboro Recorder, and the only one known to be extant, 
is in the possession of Miss Alice C. Heartt, of Hillsboro, N. C., the 
granddaughter of the editor. Following an issue of January, 1821, which 
announces that Judge Murphey would contribute a series of letters, there 



The Martin and Garden Copies 183 

tionary movements in North Carolina is in substance 
and largely in form the same as that which appears 
in Martin's History of North Carolina. From a 
comparison of the two, which are printed below in 
parallel columns, it is manifest that Martin copied 
into his work the paper which Judge Murphey pre- 
pared from the Polk manuscript and published in 
the lost Hillsboro Recorder in March, 1821. There 
is, of course, a diversity between the Polk and 
Martin accounts of the Mecklenburg Declaration, 
because the former was intended only as a basis for 
Judge Murphey's publication ; and he no doubt 
added facts bearing upon the matter which had 
come to light up to the time of his writing. The 
new data were contained in the joint certificate of 
George Graham, William Hutchison, Jonas Clark, 
and Robert Robison, given by these men at the 
request of Colonel Polk, and published in the 
Raleigh Register of February 18, 1820, and in the 
testimony of James Jack and Francis Cummins, 
published in the same paper on May 26, 1820. 
The few facts recorded in the Martin account 
which are not in Colonel Polk's are all stated in 
this published testimony. The Polk recension 
of the Mecklenburg resolutions does not agree 
verbatim with Martin's nor with that published in 
the Raleigh Register a few months before it was 

is a gap in the file extending to late in that year. It would seem from 
Judge Murphey's letter to General Graham, in which he refers to his 
articles in the Hillsboro Recorder, that they were copied by a Fayetteville, 
N. C., newspaper. The first of these articles was copied into the New- 
bern Centinel, of September 8, 1821. It was written over the name of 
" Florian." 



1 84 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

written ; but it contains several words and phrases 
of the Martin copy which do not appear in the 
Raleigh Register version. " The resolutions of the 
Mecklenburg delegates," wrote Colonel Polk, " is 
taken from a manuscript copy given by Dr. Jos. 
McKnitt Alexander of Mecklenburg. / cannot 
vouch for their being in the words of the Committee 
who framed them, but they are essentially so." It 
will appear below that Judge Murphey, being thus 
informed that the resolutions were not an extract 
from an original record and virtually told that he 
might take liberties with them, made emendations 
in several places where he thought that the original 
text had not been preserved, and constructed a 
sixth resolution of which Colonel Polk gave the 
substance. 

Polk. 1 Martin. 

. . . But in no part of the In the western part of the 

Province was there such oppo- province, the people were still 

sition to the usurped acts of eager in their resistance. In 

the British Gov*, nor so great the months of March and 

a love of liberty and country April, 1775, the leading men 

manifested as in the Coun- in the county of Mecklenburg 

ty of Mecklenburg : In the held meetings to ascertain the 

months of March & April sense of the people, and to 

1775 the influential characters confirm them in their oppo- 

in the County held meetings sition to the claim of the 

to ascertain the sense of the parliament to impose taxes 

people & to reason with them and regulate the internal 

on the propriety of opposition policy of the colonies. At 

to the right claimed by the one of those meetings, when 

British Parliment to impose it was ascertained, that the 

1 The parts of Folk's manuscript preceding and following the extract 
printed here will be found in the Appendix. 



The Martin and Garden Copies 185 



taxes and regulate the internal 
policy of the Colonies at one 
of these meetings when it was 
ascertained the People were 
prepared to meet their wishes 
if was agreed that Thomas 
Polk then Col. comd* of the 
County; should issue an order 
directed to each Captain of 
the Regiment, requiring them 
to call a company meeting & 
to elect two delegates from 
each company to represent 
them in Committee at Char- 
lotte on the 19* of May 1775 
giving to the Delegates full & 
ample power to adopt such 
measures as to them should 
seem best calculated to pro- 
mote the common cause ; to 
defend the country against 
British usurpation & slavery, 
and aid our Brethren in Massa- 
chusetts Agreeably to the 
order aforesaid ; Delegates 
from every Captains comp? 
in the County (& which at 
that time comprehended the 
County of Cabarrus) met in 
Charlotte with powers as am- 
ple as had been required. 
When the Delegates had taken 
their seats in the C House 
was nominated & ap- 
pointed Chairman, & Doctor 
Ephraim Brevard Secretary. 
It had been agreed by those 
at whose instance the con- 



people were prepared to meet 
their wishes, it was agreed, 
that Thomas Polk, then colonel 
commandant of the county, 
should issue an order directed 
to each captain of militia, re- 
questing him to call a com- 
pany meeting to elect two 
delegates from his company, 
to meet in general committee, 
at Charlotte, on the igth of 
May; giving to the delegates 
ample power to adopt such 
measures, as to them, should 
seem best calculated to pro- 
mote the common cause of 
defending the rights of the 
colony, and aiding their 
brethren in Massachusetts. 
Colonel Polk issued the order, 
and delegates were elected. 
They met in Charlotte, on the 
day appointed. The forms 
of their proceedings and the 
measures to be proposed had 
been previously agreed upon, 
by the men at whose instance 
the committee were assem- 
bled. The Reverend Heze- 
kiah Jones Balch, Dr. Ephraim 
Brevard, and William Kennon, 
esq. an attorney at law, ad- 
dressed the committee, and 
descanted on the causes which 
had led to the existing contest 
with the mother country, and 
the consequences which were 
to be apprehended, unless the 



1 86 The Mecklenburg Declaration 



vention met that the Revl 
Hezekiah James Balch, Doct? 
Eph. Brevard & W? Ken- 
non Esq an Att? and man of 
considerable oratorial powers, 
should open the bussiness 
by discanting on the causes 
which had led to the existing 
contest & the result, which 
would inevitably follow, unless 
met by a firm manly & ener- 
getic resistance. to aid the 
end which the leaders had in 
view, it fortunately happened 
that on the day of the meet- 
ing the news of the action 
at Lexington reached them; 
fought on the 19* of April ; 
which gave a fair & fortunate 
opportunity for those who 
were inclined to urge the pro- 
priety of disolving the union 
between the mother country 
& the Colonies & to assume 
a Republican form of Gov? 
which was the great object of 
the Leaders. The speakers 
acquitted themselves on the 
several subjects on which 
they spoke remarkably well & 
with great effect not only on 
the Delegates, but a numerous 
assemblage of the People of 
the County led together from 
the novelty of the meeting 
when after a few observations 
by several of the popular Dele- 
gates ; it was echoed from 



people should make a firm 
and energetic resistance to 
the right which parliament 
asserted, of taxing the colo- 
nies and regulating their in- 
ternal policy. 



On the day on which the 
committee met, the first in- 
telligence of the action at 
Lexington, in Massachusetts, 
on the i Qth of April, was 
received in Charlotte. This 
intelligence produced the 
most decisive effect. A large 
concourse of people had as- 
sembled to witness the pro- 
ceedings of the committee. 
The speakers addressed their 
discourses, as well to them, as 
to the committee, and those 
who were not convinced by 
their reasoning, were influ- 
enced by their feelings, and 
all cried out, " let us be inde- 
pendent ! let us declare our 
independence and defend it 
with our lives and fortunes ! " 
A committee was appointed 
to draw up resolutions. This 
committee was composed of 
the men who planned the 
whole proceedings, and who 






The Martin and Garden Copies 187 



every quarter let us be Inde- 
pendent ; let us declare our- 
selves free and Independent 
and we will defend it with 
our lives & fortunes A 
Committee was immediately 
raised for the purpose of 
drafting Resolutions in obedi- 
ence to the wish of the Dele- 
gates & the People present 
who soon returned with the 
following which had been 
prepared some days before 
from the pen of Doctor 
Brevard : 

Resolved That, whosoever 
directly or indirectly abets 1 
or in any way form or man- 
ner, countenances 2 the unchar- 
tered and dangerous invasion 
of our rights as claimed by 
G* Britain; is an enemy to this 
country, to America & to the 
inherent rights 8 of Man. 

Resolved, That We the Citi- 
zens of Mecklenburg County 
do hereby dissolve the political 
bonds which have connected 
us with* the mother country; 
and do hereby absolve our- 
selves from all allegiance to 
the British Crown, and ab- 
jure all political connection 
contract or association with 



had, already, prepared the 
resolutions which it was in- 
tended should be submitted 
to the general committee. 
Doctor Ephraim Brevard had 
drawn up the resolutions 
sometime before, and now 
reported them, with amend- 
ments, as follows : 



"Resolved, That whosoever 
directly or indirectly abets, or 
in any way, form or manner, 
countenances the invasion of 
our rights as attempted by the 
parliament of Great Britain, 
is an enemy to his country, to 
America and the rights of 
man. 

" Resolved, That we, the citi- 
zens of Mecklenburg county, 
do hereby dissolve the po- 
litical bonds which have con- 
nected us with the mother 
country; and absolve our- 
selves from all allegiance to 
the British crown, abjuring 
all political connexion with 
a nation, that has wantonly 



1 The Raleigh Register copy has " abetted." 

'The Raleigh Register copy has " countenanced." 

8 The Raleigh Register copy has " inherent and inalienable rights.'* 

4 The Raleigh Register copy has " to " instead of "with." 



1 88 The Mecklenburg Declaration 



that Nation who have wan- 
tonly trampled on our rights 
and liberties and inhumanly 
shed the innocent blood of 
our American J Patriots at Lex- 
ington. 

Resolved, That we do here- 
by declare ourselves a free 
and independent People are 
& of right ought to be a sov- 
ereign & self governing asso- 
ciation under the power of 
God & the general Congress 9 ; 
to the maintainance of which 
Independence we solemnly 
pledge to each other, our mu- 
tual cooperation, our lives our 
fortunes & our most sacred 
honor. 

Resolved, That as we now 
acknowledge the existence and 
controul of no law or legal 
officer civil or military, within 
this county; we do hereby 
ordain and adopt as a rule of 
life, all and each of our for- 
mer laws, wherin neverthe- 
less the Crown of G. B. never 
can be considered as holding 
rights priviledges immunities 
or authority therein. 

Resolved, That and it' is 
further decreed that all, each 
and every Military Officer in 



trampled on our rights and 
liberties, and inhumanly shed 
the innocent blood of Ameri- 
cans at Lexington. 



" Resolved, That we do here- 
by declare ourselves a free and 
independent people, that we 
are and of right ought to be a 
sovereign and self-governing 
people, under the power of 
God and the general congress; 
to the maintenance of which 
independence we solemnly 
pledge to each other, our 
mutual co-operation, our lives, 
our fortunes and our most 
sacred honor. 



" Resolved, That we do here- 
by ordain and adopt as rules 
of conduct, all and each of our 
former laws, and the crown of 
Great Britain cannot be con- 
sidered hereafter as holding 
any rights, privileges or im- 
munities amongst us. 

" Resolved, That all officers 
both civil and military, in this 
county, be entitled to exer- 



1 The Raleigh Register copy has "of American." 

9 The Raleigh Register copy has ' ' under the control of no power other 
than that of our God and the General Government of the Congress." 
8 The Raleigh Register copy has " That it." 



The Martin and Garden Copies 189 



this County is hereby rein- 
stated to his former command 
and authority, he acting con- 
formably to these regulations; 
and that every member pres- 
ent of this delegation shall 
henceforth be a civil officer 
viz a Justice of the Peace in 
the Character of a Committee 
man, to issue process, hear 
and determine all matters of 
controversy according to said 
adopted Laws, to preserve 
Peace, union 1 & harmony in 
s? County; and to use every 
exertion to spread the love of 
liberty & of country 8 throuoght 
America untill a more general 
& organised goverment be 
established in this Province. 

Resolved, That the forego ing 
resolutions, be adopted which 
was accordingly done unani- 
mously, & that the Delegates 
sign their names to the same. 

It was also resolved, that a 
copy of the resolutions should 
be transmitted by express to 
the Gen? Congress to be 
laid before that body by the 
representatives from the Pro- 
vince Viz Caswell Hooper & 
Hughes a committee was 
appointed to select a proper 
person to be the bearer of the 



cise the same powers and 
authorities as heretofore; that 
every member of this delega- 
tion shall henceforth be a 
civil officer, and exercise the 
powers of a justice of the 
peace, issue process, hear and 
determine controversies ac- 
cording to law, preserve peace, 
union and harmony in the 
county, and use every exer- 
tion to spread the love of lib- 
erty and of country, until a 
more general and better organ- 
ized system of government be 
established. 



"Resolved, That a copy of 
these resolutions be trans- 
mitted, by express, to the 
president of the continental 
congress, assembled in Phil- 
adelphia, to be laid before 
that body." 

These resolutions were 
unanimously adopted and sub- 
scribed by the delegates. 



1 The Raleigh Register copy has " peace and union." 
8 The Raleigh Register copy has "the love of country and fire of 
freedom." 



1 90 The Mecklenburg Declaration 



Resolutions who engaged the 
services of Cap* James Jack a 
Citizen of Charlotte; who ac- 
cordingly set off and delivered 
the same The President of 
Congress returned by Cap! 
Jack a polite answer to the 
address accompanying the res- 
olutions, in which he highly 
approved of the measures en- 
tered into by the Delegates 
of Mecklenburg; but deemed 
it premature to submit the 
resolutions to Congress The 
Representatives from the Pro- 
vince also sent a joint letter 
complimentary to the people 
of Mecklenburg & applauding 
their zeal in the common cause 
& recommending the same 
good order & perseverance 
which had marked their for- 
mer conduct should be kept up 
& persevered in. [They stated 
also, " that the time would 
soon be, when the whole Con- 
tinent would follow our exam- 
ple." (Joint certificate of 
Geo. Graham and others, 
Raleigh Register, Feb. 18, 
7<&?o.)' " When the resolu- 
tions were finally agreed on 
they were publicly proclaimed 
from the court-house door" 



James Jack, then of Charlotte, 
but now residing in the state 
of Georgia, was engaged to 
be the bearer of the resolu- 
tions to the president of con- 
gress, and directed to deliver 
copies of them to the dele- 
gates in congress from North 
Carolina. The president re- 
turned a polite answer to the 
address which accompanied 
the resolutions, in which he 
highly approved of the meas- 
ures adopted by the delegates 
of Mecklenburg; but deemed 
the subject of the resolutions 
premature to be laid before 
congress. Messrs. Caswell, 
Hooper and Hewes, forward- 
ed a joint letter, in which they 
complimented the people of 
Mecklenburg for their zeal in 
the common cause, and rec- 
ommended to them, the strict 
observance of good order; 
that the time would soon 
come, when the whole conti- 
nent would follow their exam- 
pie. 

On the day that the resolu- 
tions were adopted by the del- 
egates in Charlotte, they were 
read aloud to the people, who 
had assembled in the town, 



1 The joint certificate of George Graham, Wm. Hutchison, Jonas 
Clark, and Robert Robison (State Pamphlet) was given at the request of 
Colonel Wm. Polk and substantiates his statements regarding the actors in 
the transaction. 



The Martin and Garden Copies 191 



(Captain Jack's certificate, 
Raleigh Register, May 26, 
1826), " under the shouts and 
huzzas of a very large assem- 
bly of the people." (Graham 
and others?) " I was then solic- 
ited to be the bearer of the 

proceedings and in 

passing through Salisbury, the 
General Court was sitting 
at the request of the court I 
handed a copy of the resolu- 
tions to Col. Kennon, an attor- 
ney, and they were read aloud 
in open court. Major Wil- 
liam Davidson, and Mr. 
Avery, an attorney, called on 
me at my lodgings the even- 
ing after, and observed they 
had heard of but one person, 
(a Mr. Beard) but approved 
of them . ' ' ( Captain Jack's 
certificate.)] 

In addition to the foregoing 
resolutions, a number of other 
resolutions & bye laws were 
adopted Courts of Justice 
were held by & under the 
direction of the Delegates 
for some months these Courts 
held their sittings at Char- 
lotte, but for the better con- 
venience of the people two 
other places were selected at 
which & at Charlotte the court 
met alternately. 

A Committee of safety was 
selected from the whole Dele- 



and proclaimed amidst the 
shouts and huzzas, as express- 
ing the feelings and de- 
termination of all present. 
When captain Jack reached 
Salisbury, on his way to Phil- 
adelphia, the general court 
was sitting, and Mr. Kennon, 
an attorney at law, who had 
assisted in the proceedings of 
the delegates at Charlotte, 
was then in Salisbury. At 
the request of the judges, Mr. 
Kennon read the resolutions 
aloud in open court, to a large 
concourse of people; they 
were listened to with attention 
and approved by all present. 



The delegates at Charlotte 
being empowered to adopt 
such measures, as in their 
opinion would best promote 
the common cause, established 
a variety of regulations for 
managing the concerns of the 
country. Courts of justice 
were held under the direction 
of the delegates. For some 
months these courts were held 
at Charlotte ; but for the con- 
venience of the people, (for 
at that time Cabarrus formed 
part of Mecklenburg,) two 



192 The Mecklenburg Declaration 



gation, to whom was given 
power to examine all persons 
brought before them who were 
charged or suspected of being 
inimical to the cause of free- 
dom & the safety of the 
Country This Committee 
was delegated with authority 
from the Gen! Delagation 
to send the Military of 
the County to bring before 
them persons living in adja- 
cent Counties charged with 
toryism or inimical to the 
cause of Liberty, & they in 
the plentitude of this power 
sent into Lincoln & Rowan 
Counties & and brought from 
them divers persons charged 
as afores d to such as shewed 
penitence & took an oath to 
support the cause of Liberty 
& the Country were set at 
Liberty others were sent 
under guard into S? Carolina 
for safe keeping among the 
latter were John Dunn & 
BenjP Boothe Boote two Law- 
yers of Salisbury. It was 
unquestionably owing to the 
early exertions of this band of 
Patriots & to the measures 
entered into at the meeting of 
the Delegates on the 19^ of 
May ; that the future unanim- 
ity & exertions of the Peo- 
ple of Mecklenburg in the 
cause of liberty & indepen- 



other places were selected^ 
and the courts were held at 
each in rotation. The dele- 
gates appointed a committee 
of their body, who were called 
" a committee of safety," and 
they were empowered to ex- 
amine all persons brought be- 
fore them charged with being 
inimical to the common cause, 
and to send the military into 
neighboring counties to arrest 
suspected persons. In the 
exercise of this power, the 
committee sent into Lincoln 
and Rowan counties, and had 
a number of persons arrested 
and brought before them. 
Those who manifested peni- 
tence for their toryism, and 
took an oath to support the 
cause of liberty and of the 
country, were discharged. Oth- 
ers were sent under guard 
into South Carolina for safe 
keeping. The meeting of the 
delegates at Charlotte and the 
proceedings which grew out 
of that meeting, produced the 
zeal and unanimity for which 
the people of Mecklenburg 
were distinguished during the 
whole of the revolutionary 
war. They became united as 
a band of brothers, whose 
confidence in each other, and 
the cause which they had 
sworn to support, was never 



The Martin and Garden Copies 193 

dence, was so remarkable shaken in the worst of times. 

it united them into a band of 

Brothers, whose confidence in 

each other & the cause they 

had sworn to support ; was 

never shaken ; even in the 

worst of times 

The truth is apparent on the face of these papers. 
It is confirmed by another account of the Mecklen- 
burg Declaration, written by Judge Murphey, which 
contains passages substantially the same as some of 
these found in the Polk manuscript and literally the 
same as passages in the Martin account. This is the 
revised Polk narrative in condensed form, and prob- 
ably the account of the Mecklenburg Declaration 
which Judge Murphey intended to use in his history 
of North Carolina. It was undoubtedly written be- 
fore Martin's book was published, in the autumn of 
1829, for Murphey had by that time virtually aban- 
doned his historical work. An extract from the 
original manuscript, which cannot now be found, was 
published by John H. Wheeler, the North Carolina 
historian, in Our Living and Our Dead, for January, 
1875. Wheeler prefaced it as follows: "In our 
explorations of the field of history we have met the 
unpublished manuscript of an able, learned and dis- 
tinguished son of North Carolina, now dead, late 
Archibald D. Murphey. He was in the councils of 
the State from 1812-18, and for some years a judge. 
He was a devotee to history and collected a large 
mass of information which he did not live to publish. 
We extract the following." Wheeler does not re- 
produce the resolutions in the Murphey manuscript, 
13 



194 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

but says at the place where they should appear, 
" Here are quoted the identical resolutions of May 
20, already given." The resolutions referred to are 
those printed in the State Pamphlet ; but Wheeler 
is perhaps as inaccurate a historian as ever wrote 
when the facts were actually before him. It is not 
unlikely, however, that Judge Murphey decided to 
use the Davie (Raleigh Register) copy of the reso- 
lutions in his history of North Carolina instead of 
the polished edition which he published in 1821. 

Dr. George W. Graham and other recent pro-decla- 
ration writers tell us there was still another historian 
who copied the document from the much discussed 
Cape-Fear Mercury, or, at least, from a paper of 
earlier date than the Davie copy. Major Alexander 
Garden, who served under "Light Horse Harry" 
Lee, published nearly a year before Martin's history 
appeared, in his Anecdotes of the American Revolu- 
tion, a copy of the Mecklenburg Declaration which 
agrees verbatim et literatim with Martin's but for 
six minor discrepancies. The discrepancies are to 
be attributed to mistakes in printing or transcribing. 
Garden's copy has two words less than Martin's, two 
words different from the corresponding ones in 
Martin's, a word misplaced, and a word written in 
the plural which is in the singular in Martin's. Gar- 
den's story of the declaration is little more than an 
abridgment of Martin's, whole sentences in the two 
narratives being literally the same. Both were 
derived therefore from a common source. We con- 
clude with Dr. Graham that this applies likewise 
to the resolutions. Garden also drew upon an article 



The Martin and Garden Copies 195 

on the Mecklenburg Declaration which appeared in 
the Charleston Mercury of July 4, 1828, over the 
name of " Guilford." His book was published in 
Charleston, where he resided, in November follow- 
ing. The Garden "anecdote," a part of the ab- 
breviated Murphey narrative printed by John H. 
Wheeler, and extracts from the opening and closing 
paragraphs of " Guilford's " article are placed below 
in parallel columns. A glance will show that the 
former are both condensed forms of the revised 
Polk narrative which Martin reproduced, and that 
" Guilford's " article furnished Garden with addi- 
tional matter. 1 Passages in the Murphey and 
Garden narratives which are to be found verbatim ef 
literatim, or nearly so, in Martin's, are italicized. 

Murphey and Guilford. Garden. 

Boston has been emphatically It is a compliment richly due 
styled the cradle of American to our sister State of North- 
Liberty; and to Massachusetts Carolina, to mention an im- 
doubtless belongs the merit of portant fact, which, however 
having given the first im- redounding to her credit, is 
pulse to that spirit of resistance even at this period but little 

1 "Guilford" prepared his story of the Mecklenburg Declaration from 
4 ' J. McKnitt's " publication. His resolutions are slightly different from 
44 J. McKnitt's," but they were undoubtedly intended to be a true copy. 
For 4l Guilford's " article the writer is indebted to Mr. A. S. Salley, Jr., 
who also pointed out its resemblance to the Garden narrative and ascer- 
tained the month of the publication of Garden's book by these facts : "In 
the first part of the book there is a letter from Major Garden to Gen. 
Thomas Pinckney, dated October 12, 1828, and to this Major Garden adds 
a note referring to the death of Gen Pinckney. Gen, Pinckney died on the 
2d of November. The copyright to the book, printed on the reverse of 
the title-page, was issued by the clerk of the United States District Court 
at Charleston on the I7th of November. The Library of the University 
of South Carolina has a copy dated 4 November 27, 1828 ' on the cover." 



196 The Mecklenburg Declaration 



which led to the emancipation 
of the American Colonies. . . . 
Yet, while Massachusetts and 
Virginia equally contend for 
the credit of having first given 
birth to the spirit of the Revo- 
lution, and while we accord to 
each the merit which is espe- 
cially due to them ; to the State 
of North Carolina must be 
conceded the honour of hav- 
ing first adopted a formal and 
decisive declaration of Inde- 
pendence. The History of this 
important event never having 
been given to the world ex- 
cept in a cursory manner by 
the learned Doctor Caldwell 
in his life of Greene, the fact 
itself is little known and but 
imperfectly understood, tho' 
its authority is established both 
by the existence of the min- 
utes of the meeting which are 
still extant in the handwriting 
of the Author and mover of 
these resolutions, which have 
been happily observed by a 
near relative of his, as well as 
by the testimony of a few of 
the survivors of the revolution, 
who still reside in that part of 
the country. [" Guilford"] 

In no part of the province 
of North Carolina was there 
such zealous opposition to the 
pretensions of the mother 
country as was in the county 



known to the citizens generally 
of the United States. 

The townof Boston has been, 
with great propriety, styled 
"the Cradle of the Revolu- 
tion." The opposition of its 
inhabitants to the encroach- 
ments of Great Britain first 
roused the Colonists to a just 
sense of the injuries medita- 
ted against their liberties, and 
fixed their resolution to repel 
force by force. Yet it will 
forever redound to the honour 
of North-Carolina, that it was 
among her people that the 
bold idea of Independence 
was first conceived and pro- 
claimed to the world. The 
tyrannical measures pursued 
by the officers of the Crown : 
the iniquities practised by 
those of the courts of justice, 
produced a general spirit of 
discontent as early as the year 
1768. 



But it was in Mecklenburg 
County that a zealous opposi- 
tion to the pretensions of the 
mother country, and a deter- 
mination to resist the agres- 



The Martin and Garden Copies 197 



of Mecklenburg in the months 
of March and April, 1775. 
The leading men in the county 
held meetings to ascertain the 
sense of the people and to con- 
firm them in their opposition to 
the claims of Parliament to im- 
pose taxes and regulate the in- 
ternal policy of the colony. At 
one of these meetings it was 
agreed that Thomas Polk, the 
Colonel Commandant of the 
county, should issue an order 
directed to each captain of mili- 
tia to call a company meeting and 
elect two delegates from each 
company to meet in general com- 
mittee at Charlotte, on May 
2 9* *775i giving these delegates 
ample power to adopt such meas- 
ures as to them should seem best. 
The committee met. Dr. 
Brevard and William Kennon 
addressed the meeting. The 
question was formally put 
whether it was then expedient 
for the people of Mecklenberg 
county to declare themselves 
independent. It was decided 
unanimously in the affirmative. 
A committee was appointed to 
present resolutions, which were 
as follows: ^ Here" says 
John H. Wheeler, " are quoted 
the identical resolutions of 
May 2Oth, already given. 
Judge Murphey continues : " ] 
\Murphey. J 



sions of power were first 
decidedly manifested. The 
leading men held meetings to 
ascertain the sense of the people, 
and to confirm them in their 
opposition to the claim of Par- 
liament to impose taxes, and 
regulate the internal policy of 
the Colony. The Post Com- 
mandant of the county was, 
on one occasion, directed to 
issue orders to each captain 
of the militia, to elect two dele- 
gates from his company, to 
meet in general committee at 
Charlotte, the better to adopt 
such measures as should seem 
best calculated to promote the 
common cause, of defending the 
right of the Colony, and of aiding 
their brethren in Massachusetts. 
The order was issued, and dele- 
gates elected, who met at Char- 
lotte on the 1 9th of May, 1775. 
On that day, the first intelli- 
gence of the commencement 
of hostilities at Lexington, was 
received by the committee. 
Its effect was decisive. The uni- 
versal cry was, " Let us be in- 
dependent let us declare our 
independence and defend it 
with our lives and fortunes." 
Resolutions were immediately 
drawn up and adopted. Dr. 
Brevard, who framed them, 
had the honour to report them, 
also they were to this effect : 



198 The Mecklenburg Declaration 



The singular identity of lan- 
guage and sentiment of these 
Resolutions, with those of the 
Declaration of Independence 
drawn up by Mr. Jefferson, 
more than a year afterwards, 
afford a subject of envious re- 
mark. In force and elegance 
of expression, and in purity of 
principle, they are alike hon- 
ourable to the distinguished 
gentleman who framed them, 
as they are to the conven- 
tion, which in the language of 
the Resolutions " pledging to 
each other their mutual Coop- 
eration, their lives, and their 
fortunes, and most sacred hon- 
our," in their wisdom adop- 
ted and under favor of God 
and their consciences, at the 
hazard of their lives, their 
liberties, and all that was dear, 
supported. The events which 
followed this memorable dec- 
laration in that section of the 
country, which was alike the 
subject of foreign invasion and 
civil war, would afford abun- 
dant interesting material for 
the historian and we are much 
gratified to perceive that a 
history of the State is now in a 
state of forwardness, under the 



[Here is inserted an almost 
perfect reproduction of the 
Martin copy of the declara- 
tion^ 

I think it scarcely possible 
to read these Resolutions, 
without perceiving how strong 
the similarity of sentiment ex- 
pressed in the Declaration of 
Independence, introduced by 
Mr. Jefferson, at an after pe- 
riod into Congress. Even the 
expressions are, in many in- 
stances, literally the same, in 
so much as to give conviction, 
that the Mecklenburg Resolu- 
tions were constantly in view, 
when the Committee of Con- 
gress drew that momentous 
document, which we consider 
as the palladium of our lives 
and liberties. 

This early manifestation 
of patriotic enthusiasm, never 
knew diminution ; a steadiness 
of principle characterized the 
inhabitants of Mecklenburg 
county throughout the whole 
war. It was there that sup- 
plies were, with the greatest 
liberality, bestowed on the 
soldiers fighting the battles of 
their country that the hos- 
pitals were best protected, and 
comforts afforded the sick. It 
was there that the enemy met 
with constant and decided op- 
position, and that they were 



The Martin and Garden Copies 199 

direction of a gentleman whose so incessantly harassed at ev- 
talents and industry amply ery turn, and in every situa- 
qualify him to do justice to the tion which they occupied, that 
subject. "Gwlford" Charlotte was emphatically 

styled by them "the Hor- 
nets' Nest:' 

It will be seen that Garden's last paragraph is a 
brief summary of facts stated in the concluding por- 
tion of the Polk manuscript and mostly omitted by 
Martin when he copied Murphey's published ac- 
count. Murphey's second revision of the Polk 
narrative, which he seems to have written for his 
proposed history of North Carolina, contained a 
fuller statement than Garden gave. Wheeler's 
extracts from his manuscript, continued from where 
they were left off, are as follows 1 : 

The resolutions were unanimously adopted and subscribed to by 
all the delegates. Captain James Jack, then of Charlotte^ but 
since of Georgia, was engaged as the bearer to the President of 
the Continental Congress, and directed to deliver copies to Caswell, 
Hooper, and Hewes, the delegates to Congress from North 
Carolina. . . . These delegates prudently advised that no 
open opposition should be made by the inhabitants of de- 
tached portions of the country before the proper season, when 
the whole would rise together. This advice, dictated by wis- 
dom, was observed by the people of Mecklenburg, and it was 
no doubt owing to this fact that so little of this curious his- 
tory is known to the world. . . . The Declaration of Meck- 
lenburg derives its importance from its consequences, for this 
event not only influenced but determined the fate of the Revo- 
lution in the Southern States. It produced that zeal and 
unanimity for which the people of Mecklenburg and Rowan were 
distinguished during the whole contest. They became united as 
one band of brother S) had confidence in the cause they vowed to sup- 

1 The italicized portions are in the words of the so-called Martin copy. 



200 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

port, which faith was never shaken in the darkest hour of the 
long and dubious contest. They opposed the first barrier to the 
British forces flushed with the conquest of Georgia and South 
Carolina. Gates being defeated, there was not a Continental 
soldier between Camden, South Carolina, and Hillsboro'. A 
mere handful of the brave men of Mecklenburg disputed the 
possession of Charlotte, and while there the pickets and forag- 
ing parties of the invaders were constantly fired upon. After 
Cornwallis* retreat from Charlotte, which his legionary Colonel, 
Tarleton, with as much truth as wit, pronounced to be an 
agreeable village, but a decidedly rebellious place, these men, 
unawed by force and undismayed by reverses, rapidly re- 
cruited the shattered corps of Sumpter, Davie, and Washing- 
ton ; rallied to the standard of Greene and fought gallantly at 
Cowpens, Eutaw and elsewhere. ... It thus is clear that 
the declaration at Charlotte becomes one of the most import- 
ant events of the American Revolution. The spirit it excited 
sustained the cause in the Southern States. It formed a nu- 
cleus around which valor might rally. 

If further evidence were wanting in order to 
prove that Martin and Garden copied the revised 
Polk narrative and resolutions, it might be pointed 
out that both of these men were friends of Colo- 
nel William Polk, 1 that Martin was in communica- 
tion with Murphey shortly before his work was 
published, and that he read the North Carolina 
newspapers. Martin says in his preface that he 
thought of abandoning his work on account of 
the following circumstance : 

" The public prints stated, that a gentleman of 
known industry and great talents, who has filled a 
very high office in North Carolina, was engaged in 
a similar work ; but several years have elapsed 

1 Geo. W. Graham : The Mecklenburg Declaration. 



The Martin and Garden Copies 201 

since, and nothing favors the belief that the hopes 
which he excited will soon be realized. 

" This gentleman had made application for the 
materials now published, and they would have been 
forwarded to him, if they had been in a condition 
of being useful to any but him who had collected 
them." 

No one but Judge Murphey was spoken of at this 
time as the author of a forthcoming history of 
North Carolina. The editor of the Raleigh Register 
said in his issue of November 1 1, 1825 : " If Judge 
Martin does not intend to finish his work, it is 
much to be wished that his materials could be pro- 
cured and placed in the hands of Mr. Murphey." 
On seeing the announcement of the publication of 
Martin's work, he said (September 10, 1829) that 
he " supposed he had relinquished his intentions on 
this subject, or postponed them, in view of the 
contemplated work by Judge Murphey." In an 
unpublished review of Martin's history, Joseph 
Seawell Jones, the historian, stated that the remarks 
in Martin's preface referred to Judge Murphey, 
with whom Jones was well acquainted. He signifi- 
cantly said : " There is not in his whole book a 
single original view of any point or period in the 
history of the State." * 

1 Jones's manuscript, bearing his signature, is in the Bancroft Collection 
(" Am. Colonies," vol. i.), in the N. Y. Pub. Lib. It was written shortly 
after the publication of Martin's work. 



CHAPTER XI 

TESTIMONY OF THE WITNESSES 

WE have traced the origin of the myth of the 
Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence and of 
the several forms of the declaration which is al- 
leged to have been adopted May 20, 1775, and we 
have treated all the evidence of earlier date than 
1819, t ^ ie Y ear m which that document was first 
given to the world in the columns of the Raleigh 
Register, which is cited in support of its authen- 
ticity. It remains to make a critical analysis of a 
neglected part of the testimony of the aged men 
who stated between 1819 and 1830 that they had 
been present in Charlotte when a declaration of 
independence was agreed upon. Our study of con- 
temporaneous records has shown that the most 
significant facts which were associated in the recol- 
lection of these men with the passage of the reso- 
lutions which they understood to be a declaration 
of independence are peculiar to the resolutions of 
May 31, 1775. Their statements concerning the 
declaration itself, its date, and the disputed secre- 
taryship of the meeting that is alleged to have 
passed it, must now be considered. 

In virtue of the proof afforded by the original 



202 



Testimony of the Witnesses 203 

Davie paper that the resolutions published in 1819 
proceeded from John McKnitt Alexander, and in 
virtue of the testimony which he published in 
the State Pamphlet, Governor Montfort Stokes, of 
North Carolina, under the authority and direction 
of the General Assembly, affirmed these resolutions 
to be genuine and authentic. It is difficult to 
understand how John McKnitt Alexander's cer- 
tificate to the Davie paper could have been thus 
overlooked, or misconstrued and suppressed. The 
certificate could not have been missing when the 
Davie paper was submitted to the legislative com- 
mittee of 1830-31, for Professor Charles Phillips, 
after inspecting it in 1853, said that the certificate 
formed the " conclusion to the manuscript " not a 
separate sheet. 1 We venture to suppose that Dr. 
Joseph McKnitt Alexander, Governor Stokes, and 
the legislative committee, wishing to view the mat- 
ter in the most favorable light, judged that when 
John McKnitt Alexander said that the " foregoing 
statement, though fundamentally correct, may not 
literally correspond with the original record," he 
referred to the historical statement which accom- 
panied the resolutions in the Davie paper, 2 and 
that if he referred also to the resolutions, he meant 
that they were taken from a transcript of the orig- 
inal record, carelessly made, perhaps, and that he 
would not vouch for their literal correctness, be- 
cause he could not compare them with the records. 

1 N. C. Univ. Mag., May, 1853. 

8 John H. Wheeler construes the certificate thus in his Reminiscences of 
N. C. 266. 



204 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

The manuscript " in an unknown handwriting," 
from which Dr. Joseph McKnitt Alexander pre- 
pared the resolutions published in 1819, an d which 
he certified in 1830 to be "most probably a copy 
taken long since from the original for some per- 
son corrected by Jno. McKnitt Alexander," was 
" so perfectly the same " as the Davie paper, as far 
as the latter was preserved, that the genuineness 
and authenticity of the published resolutions was 
held to be unquestionable. 

Not one of the thirteen survivors of May, 1775, 
whose testimony appears in the State Pamphlet, 
manifests the slightest knowledge of John McKnitt 
Alexander's certificate to the Davie paper. During 
the period in which this testimony was given, the 
only recorded evidence that any one in North Caro- 
lina doubted whether the published resolutions were 
verbally correct is contained in some lost newspaper 
articles by an unknown writer, published about 
1830^ and in the manuscript narrative of the four- 
teenth witness, Colonel William Polk, written in 
August, 1819, more than a year before the Davie 
paper was found. 3 Those among the aged de- 

1 W. H. Foote, Sketches of N. C., 207. Foote's statements seem to 
imply North Carolina newspapers of 1830. 

8 Evidences of prevailing ideas are abundant. In an address delivered 
in Mecklenburg, July 5, 1824, Dr. M. W. Alexander said that the Alex- 
ander document contained " the proceedings of the meeting as drawn and 
certified by their clerk." A writer in the Charleston Mercury of July 4, 
1828, said that " the fact itself is little known and but imperfectly under- 
stood, tho' its authority is established both by the existence of the minutes 
of the meeting which are still extant in the handwriting of the Author and 
mover of these resolutions, which have been happily observed [preserved] 
by a near relative of his," etc. 



Testimony of the Witnesses 205 

ponents who saw the resolutions published in 1819 
before they gave their testimony were betrayed 
into the error of believing that they had been 
copied from the records which were destroyed in 
Alexander's house in 1 800 ; and it was inevitable 
that some should have been forced to believe that 
the historical statement which accompanied the re- 
solutions was prepared by Alexander with the aid 
of the records, and that others should have ac- 
cepted and accredited as true anything which they 
did not distinctly perceive to be false. Indeed, the 
careless reader who does not observe that the his- 
torical statement relates events which occurred long 
after May 20, 1775, might suppose that the entire 
paper, being dated, in the usual way, " North- 
Carolina, Mecklenburg County, May 20, 1775," is 
an official report made on that day. Here, then, 
were fourteen men, laboring under the weight of 
years, who were called upon to testify on the 
strength of mere memory, after a lapse of nearly 
a half century or more, concerning the peculiar 
phraseology, or exact import, or both, of a series 
of resolutions which most of them had heard read 
but once, from the steps of the courthouse in 
Charlotte. All were very young men or boys in 
May, 1775, and likely to have been among the 
first who transfigured the Mecklenburg resolves 
of May 31, 1775, into a declaration of independence. 
Here were a series of resolutions, without a rival, 
which purported to be the declaration made in 
May, 1775, accompanied by a narrative of events 
which these men had associated with the resolutions 



2o6 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

which they had in mind. The document was cer- 
tified by the son of the last custodian of the records 
of May, 1775, to be a true copy of papers left in 
his hands by his father, and the greater number of 
the aged witnesses were virtually told that these 
were the resolutions which they had heard read, 
and that May 20, 1775, was their date, or that 
John McKnitt Alexander, their late honored com- 
patriot, was a forger and a liar. All gave their 
testimony in answer to leading questions. And 
yet, notwithstanding the strong prepossessions 
under which they labored, the paper of May 31, 
1775, reasserted its hold upon their memories even 
in their statements concerning the terms of the 
resolutions which they called a declaration of in- 
dependence. 

General Joseph Graham, though but fifteen years 
of age in May, 1775, described the great meeting 
of that month with extraordinary particularity. 
He wrote in 1830, fifty-five years later, at the re- 
quest of Dr. Joseph McKnitt Alexander. The 
facts to which he certified explode the very hypo- 
thesis they were cited to confirm, and explain the 
origin of the remarkable assumption expressed in 
the preamble of the May 3ist resolves, under 
which these resolves proceeded. General Graham 
stated that one of the " reasons" for declaring in- 
dependence was "that the King or Ministry had, 
by proclamation or some edict, declared the Colo- 
nies out of the protection of the British Crown." 
He distinctly recollected, he said, that after a com- 
mittee of three had retired from the courthouse to 



Testimony of the Witnesses 207 

draft the declaration, a member of the Committee of 
Safety " addressed the Chairman as follows: * If you 
resolve on independence, how shall we be absolved 
from the obligations of the oath we took to be true to 
King George the 3d about four years ago, after the 
Regulation battle, when we were sworn whole 
militia companies together ? " " This speech pro- 
duced confusion," wrote General Graham. " Some 
said it was nonsense ; others that allegiance and 
protection were reciprocal," and that, as the King 
had declared them out of his protection, the oath 
was no longer binding. The " reason " for declar- 
ing independence stated by General Graham is 
substantially the professed " reason " for which the 
Mecklenburg committee on May 31, 1775, refused 
to support any government under the crown of 
Great Britain. The preamble of the May 3ist 
resolves reads: " Whereas by an Address presented 
to his Majesty by both Houses of Parliament, in 
February last, the American colonies are declared 
to be in a state of actual rebellion, we conceive 
that all laws and commissions confirmed by or de- 
rived from the authority of the King or Parliament, 
are annulled and vacated, and the former civil con- 
stitution of these colonies, for the present, wholly 
suspended." The address of Parliament referred 
to was presented to the King February 7, 1775. It 
did not, as General Graham recollected, declare the 
Colonies out of the protection of the British crown, 
but only that " a part of your Majesty's subjects in 
the province of the Massachusetts Bay have pro- 
ceeded so far to resist the authority of the supreme 



208 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

legislature, that a rebellion at this time actually 
exists within the said province ; and we see with 
the utmost concern that they have been counte- 
nanced and encouraged by unlawful combinations 
and engagements entered into by your Majesty's 
subjects in several of the other colonies, . . ." 1 
It is evident that the Mecklenburg patriots had 
some strong motive which is not apparent on the 
face of their bold resolves for giving them a color 
of legality by construing the sentence of rebellion 
passed on Massachusetts to fall also on themselves. 
No colony, not even Massachusetts, dared to ex- 
press the conception of the civil status created for 
the colonies by Parliament's address of February 
7> X 775 which these men formulated. General 
Graham's testimony shows very clearly that the 
preamble of the May 3ist resolves, with its strained 
construction of that address, was designed prima- 
rily as a shield for the tender consciences of those 
who took the oath 2 " to be true to King George the 
3d," as he describes it, which was exacted by Gov- 
ernor Tryon after the Regulator insurrection in 
1771. With his recollections of the charge of re- 

1 Hansard's Parliamentary History of England, xviii. , 297. 

9 The precise terms of this oath are unknown. It is usually spoken of 
as an oath of allegiance, but it must have been something more than that in 
order to have answered its purpose. Prof. Charles Phillips, who had access 
to Governor Swain's great collection of North Caroliniana, called it an oath 
" not to disturb his Majesty's government again " (N. C. Univ. Mag., May, 
1853). Prof. Wm. E. Dodd speaks of it in his Life of Nathaniel M aeon as 
an " iron-clad oath of allegiance." Rev. Francis L. Hawks, who had 
richer and more valuable materials than any other North Carolina historian, 
says that it was an oath " ' never to bear arms against the King, but to take 
up arms for him, if called upon.'" He seems to have quoted the words 
of the oath itself." Dr. Hawks 's Lecture, Cookf, 63. 



Testimony of the Witnesses 209 

bellion and consequent suspension of royal author- 
ity, which practically involved a suspension of 
allegiance, General Graham identified the principle 
of the reciprocity of protection and allegiance, 
which was commonly urged as an argument for 
declaring independence after the King's proclama- 
tion of August 23, 1775, declaring many subjects in 
divers parts of the Colonies to be in open and 
avowed rebellion, and the King's assent to the Act 
of Parliament declaring them out of his protection. 1 
While General Graham stated that the meeting 
which adopted the supposed declaration was held 
May 20, 1775, and that the resolutions which he 
heard were " as near as I can recollect, in the 
very words we have since seen them several times 
in print," his testimony concerning the resolutions 
themselves, as well as concerning a variety of facts 
and circumstances attending their adoption which 
we have already considered, prove that he con- 
founded his recollections by identifying them with 
the simulated document. 

The testimony of John Simeson is not less signifi- 
cant than General Graham's. Simeson was twenty- 
one years old when the event of which he wrote 
occurred. After conversing, he said, "with many 
old friends and others," and evidently after his 
mind was preoccupied by the publications made on 
the subject, he wrote from his home in Mecklen- 
berg county, January 20, 1820 : " As to the names 
of those who drew up the Declaration, I am inclined 

1 Compare Graham's statement with the opening words of the constitution 
of N. C. 



210 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

to think Doctor Brevard was the principal, from his 
known talents in composition. It was, however, in 
substance and form, like that great national act 
agreed on thirteen months after. Ours was towards 
the close of May, 1 775. In addition to what I have 
said, the same committee appointed three men to 
secure all the military stores for the county's use 
Thomas Polk, John Phifer and Joseph Kennedy. 
I was under arms near the head of the line, near 
Col. Polk, and heard him distinctly read a long 
string of Grievances, the Declaration and Military 
Order above." John Simeson recollected nearly 
the precise terms of the military order which forms 
the last of the " long string " of resolutions which 
he was struggling to recall. The true " Mecklen- 
burg Declaration of Independence " concludes as 
follows : 

" XX. That the Committee appoint Colonel 
Thomas Polk, and Doctor Joseph Kenedy, to pur- 
chase 300 Ib. of powder, 600 Ib. of lead, 1000 flints, 
for the use of the militia of this county, and deposit 
the same in such place as the Committee may here- 
after direct. 

" Signed by order of the Committee, 

" EPH. BREVARD, 
" Clerk of the Committee." 

Simeson erred only in adding the name of John 
Phifer to the number of those mentioned in the 
military order. But his error was a likely one, for 
it appears that John Phifer actually received the 
military stores purchased under the order. On 
December 22, 1775, the Provincial Council of North 



Testimony of the Witnesses 2 1 1 

Carolina resolved that Jeremiah McCaffety be paid 
for "two hundred and ninety-seven pounds and 
three-quarters of a pound of Gun powder taken 
and received by Colonel Thomas Polk and Major 
John Phifer." ' 

The testimony of the Rev. Humphrey Hunter 
is contained in an extract from his memoir, as it 
is entitled in the State Pamphlet, which consists 
of little more than an abridgment of the published 
Alexander narrative, a transcript of the accompany- 
ing resolutions, and a list of " delegates " prepared 
from the address of Dr. Moses Winslow Alexander, 
delivered in Hopewell church, Mecklenberg county, 
July 5, I824. 1 "The memoir is dated 1827," said 
Romulus M. Saunders in 1852, after examining the 
original then in the possession of Governor Swain, 
" and appears to be a response to a request made 
by Dr. Alexander, . . ." 2 Hunter was barely 
twenty years of age when the memorable event 
occurred. Even he, blindly following the Alex- 
ander narrative, showed that the paper of May 31, 
1775, was in his thoughts. He wrote: "Those 
resolves [the Alexander series] having been con- 
curred in, bye-laws and regulations for the govern- 
ment of a standing Committee of Public Safety 
were enacted and acknowledged." This is an 
accurate reminiscence of the substance of all the 
resolves of the paper of May 31, 1775, which 

1 Catawba Journal (Charlotte), Oct. 19, 1824. Republished in the South- 
ern Home (Charlotte), May 10, 1875, and Charlotte Observer, May 20, 1906. 

8 Address at Wake Forest College, N. C. Cf. Prof. Phillips in N. C. 
Univ. Mag., May 1853. 



212 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

follow the resolves analogous to a declaration of 
independence. Hunter took it for granted that it 
was on May 20, 1775 ; that the declaration, the by- 
laws, and the regulations were read to the assem- 
bled multitude by Colonel Thomas Polk ; but he 
would undoubtedly have scorned the suggestion 
that substantially the same measures were adopted 
at two meetings held eleven days apart. 

Colonel William Polk, a son of Colonel Thomas 
Polk, was the first to prepare his statement after 
the publication of the supposititious document in 
1819, the most active in collecting testimony to 
support its authenticity, and the most circumstan- 
tial in his account of the events of 1775. Colonel 
Polk was a youth of sixteen in May, 1775. He 
used the Alexander narrative freely in preparing 
his own, and copied the Alexander resolutions 
from a manuscript copy given him by Dr. Joseph 
McKnitt Alexander which he could not vouch to 
be "in the words of the Committee who framed 
them." After scraping his memory to make room 
for these resolutions, Colonel Polk recollected: 

In addition to the foregoing resolutions, a number of 
other resolutions & bye laws were adopted. Courts of Jus- 
tice were held by & under the direction of the Delegates. 
.... A Committee of Safety was selected from the whole 
Delegation, to whom was given power to examine all persons 
brought before them who were charged or suspected of being 
inimical to the cause of freedom & the safety of the Country. 

This was the formal work of the meeting held on 
May 31,1 775. But we are not left merely to infer- 
ential reasoning in order to affirm that the material 



Testimony of the Witnesses 213 

facts stated in Colonel Folk's narrative were recol- 
lected by John McKnitt Alexander and not by 
himself. John Simeson wrote to Colonel Polk, 
January 20, 1820, in reply to a request for infor- 
mation : " Yourself, sir, in your eighteenth year 
and on the spot, your worthy father, the most pop- 
ular and influential character in the county, and 
yet you cannot state much from recollection ! " 

George Graham, William Hutchison, Jonas Clark, 
and Robert Robison united in a single depo- 
sition, which was given at the request of Colonel 
William Polk and published February 18, 1820. 
Two of them were seventeen and two about twenty- 
four years of age on the remote occasion of which 
they wrote, yet their joint certificate involves 
many minute details, and was evidently written by 
some one who tried to group together all that was 
known on the subject. The use of the terms " del- 
egate" and " delegation " for "Committee" and 
" Committee-man " shows how closely the Alexan- 
der narrative was adhered to. Although they 
assent to the date of May 20, 1775, these four wit- 
nesses aver that at the time when the declaration 
was adopted " a Committee of Safety for the 
county were elected, who were clothed with civil 
and military power, and under their authority sev- 
eral disaffected persons " were arrested, tried, and 
deported. The ordinances to this effect were 
adopted at the meeting of May 31, 1775. 

The foregoing eight witnesses are the only ones 
among the fourteen summoned who confessed to 
any recollection concerning the terms of the reso- 



214 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

lutions which they understood to be a declaration 
of independence. The certificates of these eight, 
with the exception of John Simeson's, bear internal 
evidence of having been prepared with the aid of 
the narrative and resolutions published in 1819. 
All eight, with the very significant exception of 
John Simeson, stated that the declaration was 
made May 20, 1775. Simeson had evidently seen 
the resolutions in the Raleigh Register of April 30, 
1819, but forgot their date so soon afterwards that 
in January following he could only say that the 
resolutions which he had in mind were passed 
"towards the close of May, 1775." 

Of the remaining six witnesses, Isaac Alexander, 
writing in 1830 after May 20, 1775, had become 
commonly known as the date of the declaration 
and its anniversary celebrated alone repeated that 
date. Among the five who could not give the 
exact date were the men most likely to have remem- 
bered it if any could have done so without refresh- 
ing their memories by a sight of the published 
document Captain James Jack, the bearer of the 
resolutions which all had in mind to the Continental 
Congress, and John Davidson, the sole surviving 
member of the body that adopted them who testi- 
fied. 1 Captain Jack, writing from his home in 
Georgia in December, 1819, said that he had "seen 
in the newspapers some pieces respecting the 

1 Another member, David Reese, is referred to in the Western 
Carolinian (Salisbury, N. C.) of May 17, 1825, as then living in Cabarrus 
County. Lyman C. Draper, however, believed that the reputed " signer " 
of that name died in 1787. 



Testimony of the Witnesses 215 

Declaration of Independence by the people of 
Mecklenburg county, in the State of North Caro- 
lina, in May, 1775." He could not, however, trust 
his memory to supply even the month in which the 
declaration was made, for he stated that he set out 
for Philadelphia "the following month, say June." 
Neither could John Davidson, a reputed "signer" 
of the declaration, although he wrote as late as 
1830, and must have heard it stated many times dur- 
ing the previous decade. But " being far advanced 
in years," wrote Davidson, "and not having my 
mind frequently directed to that circumstance for 
some years, I can give you but a very succinct 
history of the transaction. ... I am confident 
that the Declaration of Independence by the people 
of Mecklenburg was made public at least twelve 
months before that of the Congress of the United 
States." 

Rev. Francis Cummins, of Georgia, seems to 
have been the only witness who testified before he 
had seen the publication of 1819. He was a 
student in Charlotte in May, 1775. Captain Jack 
said in 1819 that Cummins was "as well, or per- 
haps better acquainted with the proceedings of that 
time than any man now living." But in November, 
1819, Cummins could not state with certainty even 
the year in which the declaration was promulgated. 
His imperfect memory told him that before it was 
adopted he and many others in Mecklenburg " ab- 
jured allegiance to George III. or any other for- 
eign power" before magistrates, and a subsequent 
declaration of independence was therefore entirely 



216 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

in keeping with his confused recollections of the 
trend of sentiment toward independence at that 
period. " At length," he wrote, " in the same year, 
1775, I think, at least positively before July 4, 1776, 
the males generally of that county met on a certain 
day in Charlotte, and from the head of the Court 
house stairs proclaimed independence of English 
Government, by their herald, Col. Thomas Polk." l 
Samuel Wilson, in an undated certificate, said that 
the " committee or delegation " declared indepen- 
dence "in May, 1775." James Johnson, in 1827, 
also gave the date as " May, 1 775." From the tes- 
timony of these six Mecklenburg fathers who could 
not remember the date, it certainly seems most 
probable that not one of the eight who testified to 
the date of May 20, 1775, ever associated that date 
with the resolutions which they understood to be 
a declaration of independence before the Alexander 
paper was published in 1819. If there was such a 
one, it cannot be shown that he did not learn that 
date in 1800 or later, directly or indirectly from 
John McKnitt Alexander. 

With respect to the disputed secretaryship of the 
meeting which is alleged to have declared indepen- 
dence, the preponderance of the testimony of the 
fourteen witnesses is still more emphatically against 
the accuracy of John McKnitt Alexander's remi- 

1 Cummins reiterated his statement in a pamphlet containing a sermon 
delivered by him July 4, 1819, published in Greensboro, Ga., in the same 
year. The pamphlet is noticed in the N. C. Univ. Mag., October, 1859, ix., 
181. As the reference to the Mecklenburg Declaration is in the form of a 
note to pages 17 and 18 and mentions the month in which the declaration 
was made, which Cummins could not recollect in November, 1819, the note 
was no doubt written, and the pamphlet published, at a later date. 



Testimony of the Witnesses 217 

niscences. When we consider the circumstances 
under which they testified, it is surprising that half 
their number should have controverted Alexan- 
der's statement that he acted as secretary to the 
meeting, and named in that relation Ephraim Bre- 
vard, the recorded secretary of the meeting of May 
31, 1775. As soon as Colonel William Polk saw 
the Alexander paper in 1819, he assured the editor 
of the Raleigh Register 1 "of the correctness of the 
facts generally, tho' he thought there were errors as 
to the name of the Secretary, &c., and said that he 
should probably be able to correct these, and throw 
further light on the subject by inquiries amongst 
some of his old friends in Mecklenburg County." In 
the paper which he wrote in August, 1819, the month 
in which the editor of the Raleigh Register first an- 
nounced this fact, Colonel Polk maintains that his 
father, not Adam Alexander, was the colonel com- 
mandant of Mecklenburg who issued the order for 
the meeting, and that Ephraim Brevard, not John 
McKnitt Alexander, acted as secretary ; and he 
shows that he doubted whether Abraham Alexan- 
der was chairman. Six witnesses, including Isaac 
Alexander, a cousin of John McKnitt Alexander, 
confirmed Colonel Polk's recollections concerning 
the secretaryship of the meeting. Seven also recol- 
lected as he did that Ephraim Brevard was author 
of the declaration of independence. General Jo- 
seph Graham alone certified to the presence of 
John McKnitt Alexander as sole secretary of the 
meeting. As in the case of a witness who said that 

1 Raldgh Register, Feb. 18, 1820. 



218 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

the body which adopted the declaration was a " com- 
mittee or delegation," Humphrey Hunter sought to 
reconcile his own recollections with those of John 
McKnitt Alexander by designating both Brevard 
and Alexander as secretaries. In the records of the 
committees of the Revolutionary period organized 
under the articles of American Association we find 
no instance of a dual secretaryship. Alexander was 
probably secretary of the Mecklenburg committee 
shortly before or after the meeting referred to in his 
narrative. 

As six witnesses stated positively, with Colonel 
William Polk, that Thomas Polk, not Adam Alex- 
ander, issued the order for the meeting which is said 
to have declared independence, the editors of the 
State Pamphlet substituted Polk's name for Alexan- 
der's in their purported reprint of the paper pub- 
lished in the Raleigh Register of April 30, 1 8 1 9. At 
the head of the reprinted paper stands the reference 
to the Raleigh Register in the usual form, but no 
mention or explanation of this unwarrantable liberty 
is made. The same alteration was made in the 
original manuscript in an unknown handwriting. 

The story of the signing of the Mecklenburg 
Declaration of Independence was probably copied, 
like the declaration itself, from what was done at 
Philadelphia in 1776. John McKnitt Alexander 
failed to record it in his account of the proceedings 
of the famous meeting. The story seems to have 
originated in 1819. Colonel William Polk and the 
joint certificate of four survivors of May, 1775, 
which was prepared at his instance, stated that the 



Testimony of the Witnesses 219 

declaration was subscribed by all the members of 
the body that passed it ; but no other witnesses 
confirm them, not even John Davidson, one of the 
reputed " signers." Colonel Folk's manuscript gives 
the names of fifteen " delegates " to the meeting, 
the joint certificate seven others, and John Sime- 
son's letter two others. A list of these twenty- 
four, with the addition of the name of Henry 
Downs, is contained in the address of Dr. Moses 
Winslow Alexander, delivered July 5, 1824. As 
fifteen of the names in the list are nearly in the 
same order in which they were recollected by Col- 
onel Polk, and as two of these fifteen are not men- 
tioned in any certificate of earlier date than Dr. 
Alexander's address except Colonel Folk's, it is 
likely that the list was first published by Judge 
Archibald DeBow Murphey with the revised Polk 
narrative in the lost Hillsboro Recorder of March, 
1821. Rev. Humphrey Hunter's autobiography, 
written in 1827, enumerates these twenty-five names 
and adds that of Richard Harris, Sen. Hunter 
changed their order to make them, "according to 
my best recollection and belief," he said, "as they 
were placed on the roll " ! The " official " list of 
" Delegates Present," published in the State Pamph- 
let, is a copy of Dr. Moses W. Alexander's with the 
addition of the name of Richard Harris, Sen., which 
should have been Robert Harris. 

In a letter to Colonel Paul B. Means, dated May 
15, 1879, Professor Charles Phillips said 1 : 

1 May, /773 1 , 26. This pamphlet, published in Greensboro, N. C., 
in 1887, was suppressed for typographical blunders. 



220 The Mecklenburg Declaration 

Governor Swain had another manuscript which he would 
not let me publish. It purported to be a list of the delegates 
to the meeting of May 2oth, 1775, but not of contemporary 
authority. It had been doctored in several places names 
having been struck out and others of the Alexander family 
and connexion inserted. The origin and history of that 
paper was unknown, .... 

Professor Phillips stated that this paper "had 
evidently been used," and that it was probably got- 
ten up for Dr. Moses W. Alexander's address. 

A handbill containing the first three resolutions 
of May 20, 1775, and thirty-one names appended, 
is reproduced in facsimile in Johnson's Traditions 
of the Revolution (1851), in the New York Herald 
of May 20, 1875, and in Wheeler's Reminiscences 
of North Carolina, as "the oldest publication of 
the Mecklenburg declaration yet discovered in 
print, "and as probably dating about the year 1800. 
In his Charlotte address of 1875 Governor Gra- 
ham laid much stress upon this paper and upon a 
copy printed on satin which was once owned by 
Andrew Jackson. Very shortly afterwards, it was 
learned from Colonel F. S. Heiskell, who printed 
them, and Dr. J. G. M. Ramsey, who prepared 
them, that they were printed in Knoxville, Tenn., 
in 1825 or thereabouts. 1 Ramsey wrote Judge 
A. D. Murphey, April 9, 1827, that he had the 
broadside printed and wished to send him a copy. 2 
His list of "signers" is made up of Dr. Moses W. 
Alexander's and of the names of six men mentioned 

1 Daily Press and Herald (Knoxville), May 23, 1875. Cf. Mag. of 
Amtr. Hist., xxi., 233 ; and May, 7775, 23. 
* Murphey papers. 



Testimony of the Witnesses 221 

in Captain Jack's certificate as having been among 
those who " appeared to take the lead" in the trans- 
actions of May, 1775.* 

The well-known facsimile of the " Autographs 
of the Members of the Mecklenburg Committee," 
which is sometimes appended to printed copies of 
the Mecklenburg Declaration, was prepared by 
Benson J. Lossing from autographs furnished by 
Governor Swain and others, and first published in 
1851-52 in Lossing's Pictorial Field-Book of the 
Revolution? 

1 These six are Major John Davidson, Gen, William Lee Davidson, 
Capt. Ezekiel Polk (grandfather of President James K. Polk), Samuel 
Martin, Duncan Ochiltree, and William Wilson. None of them are men- 
tioned in the list made up by the editors of the State Pamphlet, and proba- 
bly none but the first named belong there. Capt. Jack did not say that they 
attended the meeting of which he wrote. Gen. Davidson could hardly have 
been present, as he was at that time a resident of Rowan county and a 
member of the Rowan Committee of Safety. With respect to Ezekiel 
Polk, Mr. A. S. Salley, Jr., has furnished this information: "In 1774 
Ezekiel Polk was lieutenant-colonel of the militia regiment of the New Ac- 
quisition of South Carolina and in December, 1774, ne was elected a dep- 
uty from the New Acquisition to the Provincial Congress of South Carolina 
and was still a member of that body in May, 1775. On the I2th of June 
he was elected by this Congress a captain in the 3d Regiment of South Car- 
olina ; was commissioned on the i8th, and by the i8th of July had raised 
his company and was in service, and he did not become a citizen of Meck- 
lenburg County until 1778." We know nothing concerning Samuel Martin, 
Duncan Ochiltree, and William Wilson. The "official" list of twenty- 
six delegates in the State Pamphlet contains the names of probably all the 
participants at the meeting of May 31, 1775, except John Davidson's. 
There is strong evidence that Robert Harris, whose name is there erro- 
neously given as Richard, has no claim to that honor. The name " Ford *' 
in the State Pamphlet should be written " Foard." 

5 The facsimile may also be found in Cooke's Revolutionary History 
of N. C. (1853), Gov. Graham's Address, Winsor's Narrative and Critical 
History of America > Charlotte Daily Observer , May 20, 1906, etc, 



APPENDIX OF DOCUMENTS. 



WS 



A. 



COLONEL POLK S COPY OF THE DOCUMENT PREPARED 
BY " J. MC KNITT " FROM HIS FATHER^ PAPERS 
AND PUBLISHED WITH EMENDATIONS IN THE 
"RALEIGH REGISTER," APRIL 30, 1819.* 

Copy of Jo. M? K. Alexanders letter to 
W Davidson on Declaration of Independence Meek? 

N. Carolina ) 

Mecklenburg j May 20. 1775 

In the Spring of 1775, the leading characters of Mecklenb* 
C; stimulated by that enthusiastic patriotism, which 
elevates the mind above considerations of individual 
aggrandizement, & scorning to shelter themselves from 
the impending storm by submission to lawless power, &c 
&c held several meetings detachedly in each of which 
the individual sentiments were "that the cause of Boston 
was the cause of all ; that their destinies were indissolubly 
connected with those of their Eastern fellow Citizens & 
that they must either submit to all the impositions which 
an unprincipled & to them an unrepresented Parliment 
might impose ; or support their Brethern who were doomed 
to sustain the first shock of that power which if successful 
there, would ultimately overwhelm all in the common 
calamity Conformably to these principles Col. Adam 

1 From the original manuscript in the New York Public Library (Emmet : 
1494). It was probably enclosed in Folk's letter of Aug. 18, 1819, to Judge 
A. D. Murphey, with his own narrative. It came from the Murphey 
papers. 

225 






*\ " i; 



226 Appendix of Documents 

Alexander through solicitation issued an order to each 
Capt s company in the County of Mecklenburg, then com- 
prising the present County of Cabarrus directing each 
militia Capt 5 company to elect two persons and delegate 
to them ample power to devise ways & means to aid, 
assist their suffering brethern in Boston and also generally 
to adopt measures to extricate themselves from the im- 
pending storm & to secure unimpaired their invaluable 
rights priviledges & liberties from the dominant grasp of 
British imposition & tyranny. In conformity to said 
order on the 19. of May 1775 the said delegation met in 
Charlotte town vested with unlimited powers, at which 
time official news by express arived of the Battle of Lex- 
ington on that of the preceeding month every Delegate 
felt the value and importance of the prize and the awful 
& solemn crisis which had arived every bosom swelled 
with indignation at the malice, inveteracy and unsatiable 
revenge developed in the late attack at Lexington. The 
universal sentiment was, let us not flatter ourselves that 
popular harangues or resolves, that popular vapour will 
avert the storm, or vanquish our common enemy; let us 
deliberate let us calculate the issue the probable result, 
and what is still more endearing the liberties of America 
Abraham Alexander was then elected Ch? & Jn M C K. 
Alexander Cl* after a free and full description of the 
various objects for which the delegation had been con- 
vened it was unanimously ordained. 

i 5 . 1 Resolved That whosoever directly or indirectly abet- 
ted, or in any way form or manner countenanced the un- 
chartered and dangerous invasion of our rights as claimed 
by G Britain is an enemy to this country, to America, & to 
the inherent & inalienable rights of Man. 
2. Resolved, That ["That" is in brackets] We the Cit- 
izens of Mecklenburg County do hereby dissolve the po- 
litical bands which have connected us to the mother 
country & hereby absolve ourselves from all allegiance to 
the British Crown and abjure all political connection, 



"J. McKnitt" Document 227 

contract or association with that Nation, who have wantonly 
trampled on our rights and liberties & inhumanly shed the 
innocent blood of our American Patriots at Lexington. 
3? Resolved We do hereby declare ourselves a free & 
independent People are & ought of right ought to be a 
soverign & self governing association under the controul 
of no power other than that of our God & the general 
Goverment of the Congress, to the maintainance of which 
independence we solemnly pledge to each other our mutual 
cooperation our lives our fortunes & our most sacred 
honor. 

4 That [' ' That ' ' is written over the ' ' As "] As we now ac- 
knowledge the existence and controul of no law or legal 
Officer civil or military within this Country We do hereby 
ordain and adopt as a rule of Life all and each of our former 
laws wherein nevertheless the Crown of G. B. never can be 
considered as holding rights priviledges, immunities or 
authority therin. 

5. Resolved. That ["That" is written a little above 
the line] It is also further decreed that all, each & every 
military Officer in this County is hereby reinstated to his 
former command and authority he acting conformably to 
these regulations, And that every Member present of this 
delegation shall henceforth be a civil Officer Viz a Justice 
of the Peace in the character of a Committee man, to is- 
sue process, hear & determine all matters of controversy 
according to s? adopted Laws & to preserve Peace union & 
harmony in s<? County and to use every exertion to spread 
the love of Country & fire of freedom throught America; 
untill a more general & organised goverment be established 
in this Province. 

A number of bye laws were also added merely to protect 
the association from confusion and to regulate their general 
conduct as Citizens 

After sitting in the C! House all night, neither sleepy, 
hungry or fatigued, and after discussing every paragraph, 
they were all passed sanctioned & decreed Unanimously 



228 Appendix of Documents 

about 2. Clock A M. May 20. In a few days a deputation 
of s? delegation convened when Cap James Jack of Charlotte 
was deputed as express to the Congress in ["at" is written 
over ''in"] Philadelphia with a copy of s? Resolves & Pro- 
ceedings together with a letter address? to our three Repre- 
sentatives there Viz R? Caswell W? 1 Hooper & Jos. 
Hughes under express injunction personally & through 
the State representation to use all possible means to have 
said proceedings sanctioned & approved by the general 
Congress. 

On the return of Cap* Jack the delegation learn'd their 
proceedings were individually approved by the Members 
of Congress but it was deemed premature to lay them 
before the House a joint letter from s? 3 Members of Con- 
gress was also rec? complimentary of the zeal in the 
common cause & recommending perseverance order & 
energy. 

The subsequent harmony exertion and unanimity in 
the cause of liberty & independency evidently resulting 
from these regulations & the continued exertion of si 
delegation apparantly tranquilised this section of the 
State & met with the concurrence & high approbation of 
the Council of safety who held their sessions at Newbern 
& W. m ton alternately & who confirmed the nomination & 
acts of the Delegation in their official capacity. 

From this Delegation originated the C* of enquiry of 
this County who constituted and held their first session in 
Charlotte; they then held their meetings regularly at 
Charlotte, Col? James Harris's & at Col. Phifers alternately 
one week at each place. It was civil court founded on 
military process before this judication all suspicious 
persons were made to appear (who were formerly tryed 
& banished or continued under guard 

Its jurisdiction was as unlimited as toryism and its 
decrees as final as the confidence & patriotism of the 
country several were arrested & brought before them 
from Lincoln Rowan & the adjacent Counties Booth & 



"J. McKnitt " Document 229 

Dunn lawyers were brought from Salisbury tryed convicted 
& banished &c 

J M c K Alexander Sen' 

The foregoing is a true copy of the papers on the above 
subject left in my hands by J. M? A-dec. I find it men- 
tioned on file that the original book was burned Ap? 1 800 
That a copy of the proceedings was sent to H. Wson in 
N. Y. then writing a History of N. C. & that a copy was 
sent to Gen 1 Davie. 

J McKnitt 

[The manuscript is endorsed by Colonel Polk: 
"Copy of letter to W m 
Davidson at Congress 
with the decleration 
of Independence by the 
C of Mecklenburg 

May 20. 1775"] 



CITIZENS OF MECKLENBURG COUNTY, 



TWENTIETH DAY OF MAY, 1775. 



ACCOMPANYING DOCUMENTS, 



PROCEEDINGS OF THE CUMBERLAND ASSOCIATION 



PUBLISHED BY THE GOVERNOR, 

Under the authority and direction of the General Assembly of the State of 
NORTH CAROLINA. 



RALEIGH : 

LAWRENCE & LEMAY, Printers to the State. 
1831. 




PREFACE. 

The resolution of the General Assembly directing this 
publication, makes it the duty of the Governor to cause 
to be published in pamphlet form the Report of the com- 
mittee relative to the Declaration of Independence, and 
the accompanying documents, in the following order, viz. 
i. The Mecklenburg Declaration, with the names of the 
Delegates composing the meeting; 2. The certificates tes- 
tifying to the circumstances attending the Declaration; 
and 3. The proceedings of the Cumberland Association. 

In the discharge of this duty, the Governor has deemed 
it proper to prefix to the publication the following brief 
review of the evidence by which the authenticity of this 
interesting portion of the history of North Carolina is 
controverted and sustained. 

On the 3oth of April, 1819, the publication marked A, 
made its appearance in the Raleigh Register. It was 
communicated to the Editors of that paper by Doct. 
Joseph M'Nitt, then and now a citizen of the county of 
Mecklenburg, and was speedily republished in most of 
the newspapers in the Union. A paper containing it (the 
Essex Register) was, it seems, on the 226. June, 1819, 
enclosed to Mr. Jefferson, by his illustrious compatriot 
John Adams, accompanied with the remark, that he thought 
it genuine; and this suggestion of Mr. Adams elicited the 
following reply, which was at that time published in 
various newspapers, and has been since given to the world 
in the 4th volume of Mr. Jefferson's Works, page 314-: 

231 



232 Appendix of Documents 

TO JOHN ADAMS. 

"Monticello, July 9, 1819. 

"DEAR SIR, I am in debt to you for your letters of May 
the 2ist, 2yth, and June the 22nd. The first, delivered 
me by Mr. Greenwood, gave me the gratification of his 
acquaintance; and a gratification it always is, to be made 
acquainted with gentlemen of candor, worth, and infor- 
mation, as I found Mr. Greenwood to be. That on the 
subject of Mr. Samuel Adams Wells, shall not be for- 
gotten in time and place, when it can be used to his 
advantage. 

" But what has attracted my peculiar notice, is the paper 
from Mecklenburg county, of North Carolina, published 
in the Essex Register, which you were so kind as to enclose 
in your last, of June the 22nd. And you seem to think it 
genuine. I believe it spurious. I deem it to be a very 
unjustifiable quiz, like that of the volcano, so minutely 
related to us as having broken out in North Carolina, 
some half dozen years ago, in that part of the country, 
and perhaps in that very county of Mecklenburg, for I do 
not remember its precise locality. If this paper be really 
taken from the Raleigh Register, as quoted, I wonder it 
should have escaped Richie, who culls what is good from 
every paper, as the bee from every flower ; and the National 
Intelligencer, too, which is edited by a North Carolinian: 
and that the fire should blaze out all at once in Essex, one 
thousand miles from where the spark is said to have fallen. 
But if really taken from the Raleigh Register, who is the 
narrator, and is the name subscribed real, or is it as fic- 
titious as the paper itself? It appeals, too, to an original 
book, which is burnt, to Mr. Alexander, who is dead, to a 
joint letter from Caswell, Hughes, and Hooper, all dead, 
to a copy sent to the dead Caswell, and another sent to 
Doctor Williamson, now probably dead, whose memory 
did not recollect, in the history he has written of North 
Carolina, this gigantic step of its county of Mecklenburg. 



State Pamphlet 233 

Horry, too, is silent in his history of Marion, whose scene 
of action was the country bordering on Mecklenburg. 
Ramsay, Marshall, Jones, Girardin, Wirt, historians of 
the adjacent States, all silent. When Mr. Henry's resolu- 
tions, far short of independence, flew like lightning through 
every paper, and kindled both sides of the Atlantic, this 
flaming declaration of the same date, of the independence 
of Mecklenburg county, of North Carolina, absolving it 
from the British allegiance, and abjuring all political con- 
nection with that nation, although sent to Congress, too, 
is never heard of. It is not known even a twelvemonth 
after, when a similar proposition is first made in that body. 
Armed with this bold example, would not you have ad- 
dressed our timid brethren in peals of thunder, on their 
tardy fears? Would not every advocate of independence 
have rung the glories of Mecklenburg county, in North 
Carolina, in the ears of the doubting Dickinson and others, 
who hung so heavily on us? Yet the example of independ- 
ent Mecklenburg county, in North Carolina, was never once 
quoted. The paper speaks, too, of the continued exertions 
of their delegation (Caswell, Hooper, Hughes,) 'in the 
cause of liberty and independence.' Now, you remember 
as well as I do, that we had not a greater tory in Congress 
than Hooper; that Hughes was very wavering, sometimes 
firm, sometimes feeble, according as the day was clear or 
cloudy; that Caswell, indeed, was a good whig, and kept 
these gentlemen to the notch, while he was present; but 
that he left us soon, and their line of conduct became then 
uncertain until Penn came, who fixed Hughes, and the 
vote of the State. I must not be understood as suggesting 
any doubtfulness in the State of North Carolina. No 
State was more fixed or forward. Nor do I affirm, posi- 
tively, that this paper is a fabrication: because the proof 
of a negative can only be presumptive. But I shall believe 
it such until positive and solemn proof of its authenticity 
shall be produced. And if the name of McKnitt be real, 
and not a part of the fabrication, it needs a vindication 



234 Appendix of Documents 

by the production of such proof. For the present, I must 
be an unbeliever in the apocryphal gospel. 

" I am glad to learn that Mr. Ticknor has safely returned 
to his friends; but should have been much more pleased 
had he accepted the Professorship in our University, 
which we should have offered him in form. Mr. Bowditch, 
too, refuses us; so fascinating is the vinculum of the dulce 
natale solum. Our wish is to procure natives, where they 
can be found, like these gentlemen, of the first order of 
acquirement in their respective lines; but preferring 
foreigners of the first order to natives of the second, we 
shall certainly have to go, for several of our Professors, 
to countries more advanced in science than we are. 

"I set out within three or four days for my other home, 
the distance of which, and its cross mails, are great im- 
pediments to epistolary communications. I shall remain 
there about two months; and there, here, and every 
where, I am and shall always be, affectionately and 
respectfully yours. " TH : JEFFERSON." 

The republication of this letter in a work which is 
intended for, and will go down to posterity, recommended 
alike by its intrinsic excellence, and the illustrious name of 
the author, has imposed upon the Legislature the task of 
proving that, with regard to this particular fact, Mr. 
Jefferson was mistaken, and that his opinion was made up 
from a very superficial and inaccurate examination of the 
publication in the Raleigh Register, the only evidence 
then before him, and upon which his letter is a commentary. 

The letter itself was evidently written currente calamo, 
and for that reason may not be regarded as a fair subject 
for severe criticism. It is not intended to subject it to 
such a test, nor is it designed to examine it further than 
may be necessary to the ascertainment of truth. Of the 
ability, the purity, the patriotism of the author, it is un- 
necessary to speak. His love of country was not bounded 
by the confines of Virginia; but it is no discredit to his 



State Pamphlet 235 

memory that her institutions, her heroes and her states- 
men occupied the first place in his affections. She was 
emphatically 'the mother of great men,' and 'his own, 
his native land;' and it is no matter of surprize that he 
should be unwilling, without the most ample proof, to 
transfer the brightest page of her history to emblazon the 
records of a sister State. Mr. Wirt's Life of Patrick Henry 
had just been published, and for the latter was claimed 
the high distinction of having been the first to give motion 
to the ball of the Revolution. Mr. Jefferson himself was 
the author of the Declaration of Independence by Congress, 
and was not disposed to share in any degree the immor- 
tality with which it had crowned him, with a compara- 
tively obscure citizen of North Carolina; and, therefore, 
the evidence which was at once satisfactory to Mr. 
Adams, is by him pronounced "to be a very unjustifiable 
quiz." 

The grounds for this opinion, in the order in which they 
are given to Mr. Adams, are, i. That the story is "like 
that of the volcano* having broken out in that part of 
the country, and perhaps in that very county of Mecklenburg.'" 
2. "If this paper be really taken from the Raleigh Register, 
as quoted, I wonder it should have escaped Richie," &c. 
"and that the fire should blaze out all at once in Essex, 
one thousand miles from where the spark is said to have 
fallen." 3. " But if really taken from the Raleigh Register, 
who is the narrator, and is the name subscribed real, or is it 
as -fictitious as the paper itself?" 4. "It appeals, too, to an 
original book, which is burnt, to Mr. Alexander, who is 
dead, to a joint letter from Caswell, Hewes and Hooper, 
all dead, to a copy sent to the dead Caswell, and another 
sent to Doctor Williamson, now probably dead, whose 
memory did not recollect, in the history he has written of 

*The hoax alluded to was published in 1812, and represented 
the volcano as having broken out in the neighborhood of the Warm 
Springs, in Buncombe, a point nearly as distant from the county 
of Mecklenburg as from Monticello. 



236 Appendix of Documents 

North Carolina, this gigantic step of its county of Mecklen- 
burg" &c. &c. 

Without further remark with regard to the first point 
the quiz about the volcano or the second, whether the 
"spurious" paper was really published in the Raleigh 
Register, it is proper to say, in reply to the third argument, 
that the name subscribed is real, that the individual still 
lives, that he is moreover a credible witness, and that it 
is to his laudable attention and exertions that the State 
is indebted for the preservation of much of the testimony 
which is now offered to the public. The fourth argument 
demands, and will receive more particular attention and 
examination. 

The paper appeals to a book, which is burnt; to Mr. 
Alexander, who is dead; to Messrs. Caswell, Hooper and 
Hewes, all dead; to a copy sent to "THE DEAD CASWELL," 
and another, sent to Doct. Williamson, probably dead; 
are the consecutive facts which Mr. Jefferson states, and 
on which he relies. Admit the premises, and the conclusion 
would be probable, though not inevitable; and a writer 
of much less ability, if permitted to assume his facts, 
might predicate upon them not only a very plausible, but 
an unanswerable argument. The very fact, however, on 
which Mr. Jefferson rests, as the climax of improbabilities, 
is not only not proved to exist, but, upon his own shewing, 
does not exist; and justifies the remark in the outset, that 
his letter was written in haste, upon a very superficial and 
imperfect view of the subject. The paper does not appeal 
"TO THE DEAD CASWELL," but to the then LIVING DAVIE, 
a native of the section of country in which the event 
occurred, like the former, a distinguished hero of the 
revolution, and, in every respect, a proper depositary of 
the record. The following is the statement in question: 
(See the paper A.) ("The foregoing is a true copy of the 
papers, on the above subject, left in my hands by John 
M'Nitt Alexander, dec'd. I find it mentioned on file, that 
the original book was burned April, 1800. That a copy of 



State Pamphlet 237 

the proceedings was sent to fHugh Williamson, in New 
York, then writing a history of North Carolina, and that a 
copy was sent to Gen. W. R. DAVIE.") Gen. Davie died 
shortly after the date of Mr. Jefferson's letter; but this 
identical copy, known by the writer of these remarks to be 
in the handwriting of John M'Nitt Alexander, one of the 
Secretaries of the Mecklenburg meeting, is now in the 
Executive Office of this State. (See Doct. Henderson's 
certificate, B.) Caswell, Hooper and Hewes are all dead; 
but Capt. Jack, who was appointed to carry to them, at 
Philadelphia, this Mecklenburg Declaration, lived long 
enough to bear testimony to the truth ; and his statement 
(C) is circumstantial, explicit and satisfactory. If it needed 
confirmation, it would be found to be fully sustained by 
the interesting communication (D) of the late Rev. Francis 
Cummins, D. D. of Georgia, to the Hon. Nathaniel Macon. 
More satisfactory evidence, drawn from more respectable 
sources, Mr. Jefferson, if alive, could not, and would not 
require. It is not hazarding too much to say, that there is 
no one event of the Revolution which has been, or can be 
more fully or clearly authenticated. 

It is, perhaps, needless to multiply proofs, or to extend 
this article. Col. William Polk is a resident of this city, 
a venerable remnant of the revolutionary stock, has passed 
the common boundary of human life, and in a green old 
age, is in the full possession of his faculties. His compa- 
triots, Caswell, and Hooper, and Hewes, are dead, but he 
lives, was present, heard his father proclaim the Declaration 

t This copy the writer well recollects to have seen in the possession 
of Doct. Williamson, in the 1793, in Fayetteville, together with a 
letter to him from John McNitt Alexander, and to have conversed 
with him on the subject. Why it is not mentioned in his History, 
is not strange to any one who knows the State, and has read the book. 
It cannot be regarded as a history of any country. The memorable 
Report and Resolutions of the Congress of April, 1776, are alike 
unnoticed. A correct and satisfactory account of both proceedings, 
will be found in the last chapter of Martin's History of North 
Carolina. 



238 Appendix of Documents 

to the assembled multitude; and need it be inquired, in 
any portion of this Union, if he will be believed? 

The letter (E) of Gen. Joseph Graham, another surviving 
officer of the Revolution, a citizen and a soldier worthy 
of the best days of the Republic, will be read with pleasure 
and perfect confidence throughout the wide range of his 
acquaintance. 

The extract from the memoir of the late Rev. Humphrey 
Hunter, (F) of Lincoln, is equally explicit, full and satis- 
factory. He, with several other respectable gentlemen, 
whose statements are appended, was an eye witness of 
what he relates; and the combined testimony of all these 
individuals prove the existence of the Mecklenburg Declara- 
tion, and all the circumstances connected with it, as fully 
and clearly as any fact can be shewn by human testimony. 

The following extract from "The Journal of the Provin- 
cial Congress of North Carolina, held at Halifax, on the 
4th of April, 1776," (pa. n, 12,) shews that the first legis- 
lative recommendation of a DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE 
by the CONTINENTAL CONGRESS, originated likewise in the 
State of North Carolina. It is worthy of remark, that 
John McNitt Alexander, the Secretary of the meeting, 
Waightstell Avery, John Pfifer and Robert Irwin, who were 
conspicuous actors in the proceedings in Mecklenburg, 
were active and influential members of this Provincial 
Congress. 

"The select committee to take into consideration the 
usurpations and violences attempted and committed by 
the King and Parliament of Britain against America, and 
the further measures to be taken for frustrating the same, 
and for the better defence of this Province, reported as 
follows, to wit: 

"It appears to your committee, that pursuant to the 
plan concerted by the British Ministry for subjugating 
America, the King and Parliament of Great Britain have 
usurped a power over the persons and properties of the 



State Pamphlet 239 

people unlimited and uncontrolled ; and disregarding 
their humble petitions for peace, liberty and safety, have 
made divers legislative acts, denouncing war, famine, and 
every species of calamity, against the Continent in general. 
The British fleets and armies have been, and still are daily 
employed in destroying the people, and committing the 
most horrid devastations on the country. That Governors 
in different Colonies have declared protection to slaves, 
who should imbrue their hands in the blood of their masters. 
That the ships belonging to America are declared prizes 
of war, and many of them have been violently seized and 
confiscated. In consequence of all which multitudes of the 
people have been destroyed, or from easy circumstances 
reduced to the most lamentable distress. 

"And whereas the moderation hitherto manifested by 
the United Colonies, and their sincere desire to be recon- 
ciled to the mother country on constitutional principles, 
have procured no mitigation of the aforesaid wrongs and 
usurpations, and no hopes remain of obtaining redress by 
those means alone which have been hitherto tried, your 
committee are of opinion that the House should enter 
into the following resolve, to wit: 

"Resolved, That the DELEGATES FOR THIS COLONY IN 
THE CONTINENTAL CONGRESS BE IMPOWERED TO CONCUR 
WITH THE DELEGATES OF THE OTHER COLONIES IN DECLAR- 
ING INDEPENDENCY, AND FORMING FOREIGN ALLIANCES, 
reserving to this Colony the sole and exclusive right of 
forming a Constitution and laws for this Colony, and of 
appointing Delegates from time to time, (under the direc- 
tion of a general representation thereof,) to meet the 
Delegates of the other Colonies, for such purposes as shall 
be hereafter pointed out. 

"The Congress taking the same into consideration, 
unanimously concurred therewith." 

The striking similarity of expression in the concluding 
sentences of the Mecklenburg Declaration, and the Declara- 
tion by Congress on the 4th of July, 1776, has been repeat- 



240 Appendix of Documents 

edly urged and relied upon as disproving the authenticity 
of the former. It is scarcely necessary to reply to this 
suggestion. It is not very strange that men who think 
alike should speak alike upon the same subject, more 
especially when high toned patriotic feeling seeks for 
utterance. This similarity of expression is not confined, 
however, to these two papers. A comparison of the fore- 
going resolutions with the Declaration, as drawn by Mr. 
Jefferson, will satisfy the most credulous upon this subject. 
Who suspects Mr. Jefferson of intentional plagiarism? and 
yet he might be charged with having appropriated the lan- 
guage of the Provincial Legislature, with at least as much 
propriety as Mr. Alexander with having forged the Meck- 
lenburg Declaration. The sentiments embodied by Mr. 
Jefferson were not peculiar to himself, but adopted by him 
as expressive of the common feeling in the common 
language of that eventful period. 




DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE 

AND 

ACCOMPANYING DOCUMENTS. 



REPORT AND RESOLUTIONS. 

Adopted by the General Assembly at the session of iSjo-'ji, upon 
which this publication is predicated. 



The committee to whom it was referred to examine, 
collate and arrange in proper order such parts of the 
Journals of the Provincial Assemblies of North Carolina, 
as relate to the Declaration of American Independence; 
also such documents as relate to the Declaration of Inde- 
pendence made by the patriotic men of Mecklenburg in 
May, 1775; and also such measures as relate to the same 
cause, adopted by the freemen of Cumberland county, 
previous to the fourth of July, 1776, in order to the publi- 
cation and distribution of such documents, having per- 
formed the duty assigned them, respectfully report : 

That upon an attentive examination of the Journals 
of the Provincial Assembly of North Carolina, which met 
at Halifax in the month of April, 1776, the committee are 
of opinion, that no selection could be made from the said 
Journal to answer the purpose of the House. But as 
every thing relating to that period, must be interesting 
to those who value the blessing of national independence, 
the committee recommend that the whole of the Journal 

241 



242 Appendix of Documents 

be printed, and receive the same extended distribution 
which the resolution of the House contemplates for the 
proceedings in Mecklenburg and Cumberland. This course 
is deemed by the committee the more proper, because the 
Journal is now out of print, and it is highly probable that 
the copy in the possession of the committee is the only 
one now extant. 

Your committee have also examined, collated and ar- 
ranged, all the documents which have been accessible to 
them, touching the Declaration of Independence by the 
citizens of Mecklenburg, and the proceedings of the freemen 
of Cumberland. 

By the publication of these papers, it will be fully veri- 
fied, that as early as the month of May, 1775, a portion of 
the people of North Carolina, sensible that their wrongs 
could no longer be borne, without sacrificing both safety 
and honor, and that redress so often sought, so patiently 
waited for, and so cruelly delayed, was no longer to be 
expected, did, by a public and solemn act, declare the 
dissolution of the ties which bound them to the crown and 
people of Great Britain, and did establish an independent, 
though temporary government for their own control and 
direction. 

This first claim of Independence evinces such high senti- 
ments of valor and patriotism, that we cannot, and ought 
not lightly to esteem the honor of having made it. The fact 
of the Declaration should be announced, its language 
should be published and perpetuated, and the names of 
the gallant representatives of Mecklenburg, with whom it 
originated, should be preserved from an oblivion, which, 
should it involve them, would as much dishonor us, as 
injure them. If the thought of Independence did not first 
occur to them, to them, at least, belongs the proud dis- 
tinction of having first given language to the thought; 
and it should be known, and, fortunately, it can still be 
conclusively established, that the revolution received its 
first impulse towards Independence, however feeble that 



State Pamphlet 243 

impulse might have been, in North Carolina. The com- 
mittee are aware that this assertion has elsewhere been 
received with doubt, and at times met with denial; and it 
is, therefore, believed to be more strongly incumbent upon 
the House to usher to the world the Mecklenburg Declara- 
tion, accompanied with such testimonials of its genuineness, 
as shall silence incredulity, and with such care for its 
general diffusion, as shall forever secure it from being 
forgotten. And in recounting the causes, the origin and 
the progress of our revolutionary struggle, till its final 
issue in acknowledged independence, whatever the brilliant 
achievements of other States may have been, let it never 
be forgotten, that at a period of darkness and oppression, 
without concert with others, without assurances of support 
from any quarter, a few gallant North Carolinians, all 
fear of consequences lost in a sense of their country's 
wrongs, relying, under Heaven, solely upon themselves, 
nobly dared to assert, and resolved to maintain that 
independence, of which, whoever might have thought, 
none had then spoken; and thus earned for themselves, 
and for their fellow-citizens of North Carolina, the honor 
of giving birth to the first Declaration of Independence. 

The committee respectfully recommend the adoption 
of the following resolutions. 
All of which is submitted. 

THOS G. POLK, Chr'n 
JOHN BRAGG, 
EVAN ALEXANDER, 
LOUIS D. HENRY, 
ALEX. M'NEILL. 

Resolved, That his Excellency the Governor be directed 
to cause to be published in pamphlet form the above 
Report and the accompanying documents, in the manner 
and order following, viz. After the Report, first, the 
Mecklenburg Declaration, with the names of the Delegates 
composing the meeting; second, the Certificates, testifying 



244 Appendix of Documents 

to the circumstances attending the Declaration; third, 
the proceedings of the Cumberland Association; and that 
he be further directed to have reprinted in like manner, 
separate and distinct from the above, the accompanying 
Journal of the Provincial Assembly, held at Halifax in 
one thousand seven hundred and seventy-six. 

Resolved further, That after publication, the Governor 
be instructed to distribute said documents as follows, to 
wit: Twenty copies of each to the Library of the State; 
to each of the Libraries at the University, ten copies; to 
the Library of the Congress of the United States, ten 
copies; and one copy to each of the Executives of the 
several States of the Union. 

DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE. 

May 20, 1775. 

NAMES OF THE DELEGATES PRESENT. 

Col. Thomas Polk, John M'Knitt Alexander, 

Ephraim Brevard, Hezekiah Alexander, 

Hezekiah J. Balch, Adam Alexander, 

John Phifer, Charles Alexander, 

James Harris, Zacheus Wilson, Sen. 

William Kennon, Waightstill Avery, 

John Ford, Benjamin Patton, 

Richard Barry, Matthew M'Clure, 

Henry Downs, Neil Morrison, 

Ezra Alexander, Robert Irwin, 

William Graham, John Flenniken, 

John Queary, David Reese, 

Abraham Alexander, Richard Harris, Sen. 

ABRAHAM ALEXANDER was appointed Chairman, and 
JOHN M'KNITT ALEXANDER Clerk. The following resolu- 
tions were offered, viz. 

i st. Resolved, That whosoever directly or indirectly 
abetted, or in any way, form or manner, countenanced 



State Pamphlet 245 

the unchartered and dangerous invasion of our rights, as 
claimed by Great Britain, is an enemy to this country, to 
America, and to the inherent and inalienable rights of man. 

2d. Resolved, That we, the citizens of Mecklenburg 
county, do hereby dissolve the political bands which have 
connected us to the mother country, and hereby absolve 
ourselves from all allegiance to the British Crown, and 
abjure all political connection, contract, or association, 
with that nation, who have wantonly trampled on our 
rights and liberties, and inhumanly shed the blood of 
American patriots at Lexington. 

3d. Resolved, That we do hereby declare ourselves a 
free and independent people ; are, and of right ought to be ? 
a sovereign and self-governing Association, under the 
control of no power other than that of our God and the 
general government of the Congress; to the maintenance 
of which independence, we solemnly pledge to each other 
our mutual co-operation, our lives, our fortunes, and our 
most sacred honor. 

4th. Resolved, That as we now acknowledge the existence 
and control of no law or legal officer, civil or military, 
within this county, we do hereby ordain and adopt as a 
rule of life, all, each and every of our former laws, 
wherein, nevertheless, the crown of Great Britain never 
can be considered as holding rights, privileges, immunities 
or authority therein. 

5th. Resolved, That it is further decreed, that all, each 
and every military officer in this county, is hereby rein- 
stated in his former command and authority, he acting 
conformably to these regulations. And that every mem- 
ber present, of this delegation, shall henceforth be a civil 
officer, viz. a Justice of the Peace, in the character of a 
"Committee-man" to issue process, hear and determine 
all matters of controversy, according to said adopted 
laws, and to preserve peace, union and harmony in said 
county; and to use every exertion to spread the love of 
country and fire of freedom throughout America, until 



246 Appendix of Documents 

a more general and organized government be established in 
this province. 

After discussing the foregoing resolves, and arranging 
bye-laws and regulations for the government of a Standing 
Committee of Public Safety, who were selected from these 
delegates, the whole proceedings were unanimously adopted 
and signed. A select committee was then appointed to 
draw a more full and definite statement of grievances 
and a more formal declaration of independence. The 
Delegation then adjourned about 2 o'clock, A.M. May 20. 



A 

FROM THE RALEIGH REGISTER, OF APRIL 30, 1819. 

It is not probably known to many of our readers, that the citizens 
of Mecklenburg county, in this State, made Declaration of In- 
dependence more than a year before Congress made theirs. The 
following Document on the subject has lately come to the hands 
of the Editor from unquestionable authority, and is published 
that it may go down to posterity. 

NORTH CAROLINA, MECKLENBURG COUNTY, ) 

May 20, 1775. f 

In the spring of 1775* the leading characters of Mecklen- 
burg county, stimulated by that enthusiastic patriotism 
which elevates the mind above considerations of individual 
aggrandizement, and scorning to shelter themselves from 
the impending storm by submission to lawless power, &c. 
&c. held several detached meetings, in each of which the 
individual sentiments were, "that the cause of Boston was 
the cause of all; that their destinies were indissolubly 
connected with those of their Eastern fellow-citizens 
and that they must either submit to all the impositions 
which an unprincipled, and to them an unrepresented, 
Parliament might impose or support their brethren who 
were doomed to sustain the first shock of that power, 
which, if successful there, would ultimately overwhelm all 
in the common calamity." Conformably to these principles, 



State Pamphlet 247 

Colonel T. Polk, through solicitation, issued an order to 
each Captain's company in the county of Mecklenburg, 
(then comprising the present county of Cabarrus,) directing 
each militia company to elect two persons, and delegate to 
them ample power to devise ways and means to aid and 
assist their suffering brethren in Boston, and also generally 
to adopt measures to extricate themselves from the im- 
pending storm, and to secure unimpaired their inalienable 
rights, privileges and liberties, from the dominant grasp 
of British imposition and tyranny. 

In conformity to said order, on the ipth of May, 1775, 
the said delegation met in Charlotte, vested with unlimited 
powers; at which time official news, by express, arrived 
of the battle of Lexington on that day of the preceding 
month. Every delegate felt the value and importance of 
the prize, and the awful and solemn crisis which had ar- 
rived every bosom swelled with indignation at the malice, 
inveteracy, and insatiable revenge, developed in the late 
attack at Lexington. The universal sentiment was: let 
us not flatter ourselves that popular harangues, or resolves ; 
that popular vapour will avert the storm, or vanquish 
our common enemy let us deliberate let us calculate 
the issue the probable result; and then let us act with 
energy, as brethren leagued to preserve our property 
our lives and what is still more endearing, the liberties 
of America. Abraham Alexander was then elected Chair- 
man, and John M'Knitt Alexander, Clerk. After a free 
and full discussion of the various objects for which the 
delegation had been convened, it was unanimously or- 
dained 

1 . Resolved, That whoever directly or indirectly abetted, 
or in any way, form or manner, countenanced the unchar- 
tered and dangerous invasion of our rights, as claimed by 
Great Britain, is an enemy to this country to America 
and to the inherent and inalienable rights of man. 

2 . Resolved, That we the citizens of Mecklenburg county, 
do hereby dissolve the political bands which have connected 



248 Appendix of Documents 

us to the Mother Country, and hereby absolve ourselves 
from all allegiance to the British Crown, and abjure all 
political connection, contract, or association, with that 
nation, who have wantonly trampled on our rights and 
liberties and inhumanly shed the innocent blood of 
American patriots at Lexington. 

3. Resolved, That we do hereby declare ourselves a 
free and independent people, are, and of right ought to be, 
a sovereign and self-governing Association, under the 
control of no power other than that of our God and the 
General Government of the Congress; to the maintenance 
of which independence, we solemnly pledge to each other, 
our mutual co-operation, our lives, our fortunes, and our 
most sacred honor. 

4. Resolved, That as we now acknowledge the existence 
and control of no law or legal officer, civil or military, 
within this county, we do hereby ordain and adopt, as a 
rule of life, all, each and every of our former laws, wherein, 
nevertheless, the Crown of Great Britain never can be 
considered as holding rights, privileges, immunities, or 
authority therein. 

5. Resolved, That it is also further decreed, that all, 
each and every military officer in this county, is hereby 
reinstated to his former command and authority, he acting 
conformably to these regulations. And that every member 
present of this delegation shall henceforth be a civil officer, 
viz. a Justice of the Peace, in the character of a " Committee- 
man,'" to issue process, hear and determine all matters of 
controversy, according to said adopted laws, and to pre- 
serve peace, and union, and harmony, in said county, 
and to use every exertion to spread the love of country 
and fire of freedom throughout America, until a more 
general and organized government be established in this 
province. 



A number of bye laws were also added, merely to protect 



State Pamphlet 249 

the association from confusion, and to regulate their general 
conduct as citizens. After sitting in the Court House all 
night, neither sleepy, hungry, nor fatigued, and after dis- 
cussing every paragraph, they were all passed, sanctioned, 
and decreed, unanimously, about 2 o'clock, A. M. May 20. 
In a few days, a deputation of said delegation convened, 
when Capt. James Jack, of Charlotte, was deputed as 
express to the Congress at Philadelphia, with a copy of said 
Resolves and Proceedings, together with a letter addressed 
to our three representatives there, viz. Richard Caswell, 
William Hooper and Joseph Hughes under express injunc- 
tion, personally, and through the State representation, to 
use all possible means to have said proceedings sanctioned 
and approved by the General Congress. On the return 
of Captain Jack, the delegation learned that their pro- 
ceedings were individually approved by the Members of 
Congress, but that it was deemed premature to lay them 
before the House. A joint letter from said three members 
of Congress was also received, complimentary of the zeal 
in the common cause, and recommending perseverance, 
order and energy. 

The subsequent harmony, unanimity, and exertion in 
the cause of liberty and independence, evidently resulting 
from these regulations, and the continued exertion of said 
delegation, apparently tranquilised this section of the 
State, and met with the concurrence and high approbation 
of the Council of Safety, who held their sessions at Newbern 
and Wilmington, alternately, and who confirmed the 
nomination and acts of the delegation in their official 
capacity. 

From this delegation originated the Court of Enquiry of 
this county, who constituted and held their first session in 
Charlotte they then held their meetings regularly at 
Charlotte, at Col. James Harris's, and at Col. Phifers, 
alternately, one week at each place. It was a Civil Court 
founded on military process. Before this Judicature, all 
suspicious persons were made to appear, who were formally 



250 Appendix of Documents 

tried and banished, or continued under guard. Its juris- 
diction was as unlimited as toryism, and its decrees as final 
as the confidence and patriotism of the county. Several 
were arrested and brought before them from Lincoln, 
Rowan and the adjacent counties. 

[The foregoing is a true copy of the papers on the above 
subject, left in my hands by John M'Knitt Alexander, 
dec'd. I find it mentioned on file that the original book was 
burned April, 1800. That a copy of the proceedings was 
sent to Hugh Williamson, in New York, then writing a 
History of North Carolina, and that a copy was sent to 
Gen. W. R. Davie. 

J. M'KNITT.] 



B 

STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA, ) 
MECKLENBURG COUNTY. j 

I, Samuel Henderson, do hereby certify, that the paper 
annexed was obtained by me from Maj. William Davie in 
its present situation, soon after the death of his father, 
Gen. William R. Davie, and given to Doct. Joseph M'Knitt 
by me. In searching for some particular paper, I came 
across this, and, knowing the hand writing of John M'Knitt 
Alexander, took it up, and examined it. Maj. Davie said to 
me (when asked how it became torn) his sisters had torn 
it, not knowing what it was. 

Given under my hand, this 2$th Nov. 1830. 

SAM. HENDERSON. 

[Note. To this certificate of Doct. Henderson is annexed the 
copy of the paper A, originally deposited by John M'Knitt Alex- 
ander in the hands of Gen. Davie, whose name seems to have been 
mistaken by Mr. Jefferson for that of Gov. Caswell. See preface, 
pages v & vi. This paper is somewhat torn, but is entirely legible, 
and constitutes the "solemn and positive proof of authenticity,'' 
which Mr. Jefferson required, and which would doubtless have been 
satisfactory, had it been submitted to him.] 



State Pamphlet 251 



CAPTAIN JACK'S CERTIFICATE. 

Having seen in the newspapers some pieces respecting 
the Declaration of Independence by the people of Mecklen- 
burg county, in the State of North Carolina, in May, 1775, 
and being solicited to state what I know of that transaction ; 
I would observe, that for some time previous to, and at 
the time those resolutions were agreed upon, I resided in 
the town of Charlotte, Mecklenburg county; was privy 
to a number of meetings of some of the most influential 
and leading characters of that county on the subject, 
before the final adoption of the resolutions and at the 
time they were adopted; among those who appeared to 
take the lead, may be mentioned Hezekiah Alexander, who 
generally acted as Chairman, John M'Knitt Alexander, as 
Secretary, Abraham Alexander, Adam Alexander, Maj. John 
Davidson, Maj. (afterwards) Gen. Wm. Davidson, Col. Thomas 
Polk, Ezekiel Polk, Dr. Ephraim Brevard, Samuel Martin, 
Duncan Ochletree, William Willson, Robert Irvin. 

When the resolutions were finally agreed on, they were 
publicly proclaimed from the court-house door in the town 
of Charlotte, and received with every demonstration of joy 
by the inhabitants. 

I was then solicited to be the bearer of the proceedings to 
Congress. I set out the following month, say June, and in 
passing through Salisbury, the General Court was sitting 
at the request of the court I handed a copy of the resolu- 
tions to Col. Kennon, an Attorney, and they were read 
aloud in open court. Major William Davidson, and Mr. 
Avery, an attorney, called on me at my lodgings the 
evening after, and observed, they had heard of but one 
person, (a Mr. Beard) but approved of them. 

I then proceeded on to Philadelphia, and delivered the 
Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence of May, 1775, 
to Richard Caswell and William Hooper, the Delegates to 
Congress from the State of North-Carolina. 



252 Appendix of Documents 

I am now in the eighty-eighth year of my age, residing in 
the county of Elbert, in the State of Georgia. I was in 
the Revolutionary War, from the commencement to the 
close. I would further observe, that the Rev. Francis 
Cummins, a Presbyterian Clergyman, of Greene county, 
in this State, was a student in the town of Charlotte at 
the time of the adoption of the resolutions, and is as well, 
or perhaps better acquainted with the proceedings at that 
time, than any man now living. 

Col. William Polk, of Raleigh, in North-Carolina, was 
living with his father Thomas, in Charlotte, at the time I 
have been speaking of, and although then too young to be 
forward in the business, yet the leading circumstances I 
have related cannot have escaped his recollection. 

JAMES JACK. 
Signed this 7th Dec. 1819, in presence of 

JOB WESTON, C. C. O. 

JAMES OLIVER, Atto. at Law. 



G 2 

NORTH CAROLINA, ) 
Cabarrus County, Nov. 29, 1830. j 

We, the undersigned, do hereby certify that we have 
frequently heard William S. Alexander, dec'd, say that he, 
the said Win. S. Alexander, was at Philadelphia, on mer- 
cantile business, in the early part of the summer of 1775, 
say in June; and that on the day that Gen. Washington 
left Philadelphia to take the command of the Northern 
army, he, the said Wm. S. Alexander, met with Capt. 
James Jack, who informed him, the said William S. Alex- 
ander, that he, the said James Jack, was there as the agent 
or bearer of the Declaration of Independence made in 
Charlotte, on the twentieth day of May, seventeen hundred 
and seventy-five, by the citizens of Mecklenburg, then 
including Cabarrus, with instructions to present the same 
to the Delegates from North Carolina, and by them to be 



State Pamphlet 253 

laid before Congress, and which he said he had done; in 
which Declaration the aforesaid citizens of Mecklenburg 
renounced their allegiance to the crown of Great Britain, 
and set up a government for themselves, under the title of 
The Committee of Safety. 

Given under our hands the date above written. 

ALPHONSO ALEXANDER, 
AMOS ALEXANDER, 
J. M'KNITT. 



D 

Lexington, (Georgia,) November 16, 1819. 

DEAR SIR, The bearer, the Hon. Thomas W. Cobb, has 
suggested to me that you had a desire to know something 
particularly of the proceedings of the citizens of Mecklen- 
burg county, in North-Carolina, about the beginning of 
our Revolutionary War. 

Previous to my becoming more particular, I will suppose 
you remember the Regulation business, which took its rise 
in or before the year 1770, and issued and ended in a battle 
between the Regulators and Governor Tryon, in the spring 
of 1 7 7 1 . Some of the Regulators were killed, and the whole 
dispersed. The Regulators' conduct "was a rudis indiges- 
taque moles" as Ovid says, about the beginning of creation; 
but the embryotic principles of the Revolution were in 
their temper and views. They wanted strength, consistency, 
a Congress and a Washington at their head. Tryon sent 
his officers and minions through the State, and imposed 
the oath of allegiance upon the people, even as far up as 
Mecklenburg county. In the year 1775, after our Revo- 
lution began, the principal characters of Mecklenburg 
county met on two sundry days, in Queen's Museum in 
Charlotte, to digest Articles for a State Constitution, in 
anticipation that the Province would proceed to do so. 
In this business the leading characters were, the Rev. 



254 Appendix of Documents 

Hezekiah James Balch, a graduate of Princeton College, 
an elegant scholar, Waightstill A very, Esq. Attorney at 
Law; Hezekiah and John M'Knitt Alexander, Esqrs. Col. 
Thomas Polk, &c. &c. 

Many men, and young men, (myself one) before magis- 
trates, abjured allegiance to George III, or any other 
foreign power. At length, in the same year, 1775, I think 
at least positively before July 4th, 1776, the males gener- 
ally of that county, met on a certain day in Charlotte, and 
from the head of the court-house stairs proclaimed Inde- 
pendence on English Government, by their herald Col. 
Thomas Polk. I was present, and saw and heard it, and 
as a young man, and then a student in Queen's Museum, 
was an agent in these things. I did not then take and keep 
the dates, and cannot, as to date, be so particular as I 
could wish. Capt. James Jack, then of Charlotte, but now 
of Elbert county, in Georgia, was sent with the account of 
these proceedings to Congress, then in Philadelphia and 
brought back to the county, the thanks of Congress for 
their zeal and the advice of Congress to be a little more 
patient, until Congress should take the measures thought 
to be best. 

I would suppose, sir, that some minutes of these things 
must be found among the records of the first Congress, that 
would perfectly settle their dates. I am perfectly sure 
being present at the whole of them, they were before our 
National Declaration of Independence. 

Hon. Sir, if the above few things can afford you any 
gratification, it will add to the happiness of your friend and 

humble servant. 

FRANCIS CUMMINS. 
HON. NATHANIEL MACON. 



E 

Vesuvius Furnace, 4th October, 1830. 

DEAR SIR, Agreeably to your request, I will give you 



State Pamphlet 255 

the details of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence 
on the 2oth of May, 1775, as well as I can recollect after a 
lapse of fifty-five years. I was then a lad about half grown, 
was present on that occasion (a looker on.) 

During the Winter and Spring preceding that event, 
several popular meetings of the people were held in Char- 
lotte; two of which I attended. Papers were read, griev- 
ances stated, and public measures discussed. As printing 
was not then common in the South, the papers were mostly 
manuscript ; one or more of which was from the pen of the 
Reverend Doctor Reese, (then of Mecklenburg,) which met 
with general approbation, and copies of it circulated. It 
is to be regretted that those and other papers published at 
that period, and the journal of their proceedings, are lost. 
They would show much of the spirit and tone of thinking 
which prepared them for the measures they afterwards 
adopted. 

On the 2oth of May, 1775, besides the two persons 
elected from each militia company, (usually called Com- 
mittee-men,) a much larger number of citizens attended 
in Charlotte than at any former meeting perhaps half 
the men in the county. The news of the battle of Lexing- 
ton, the 1 9th of April preceding, had arrived. There 
appeared among the people much excitement. The 
committee were organized in the court house by ap- 
pointing Abraham Alexander, Esq. Chairman, and 
John M'Knitt Alexander, Esq. Clerk or Secretary to the 
meeting. 

After reading a number of papers as usual, and much 
animated discussion, the question was taken, and they 
resolved to declare themselves independent. One among 
other reasons offered, that the King or Ministry had, by 
proclamation or some edict, declared the Colonies out of 
the protection of the British Crown; they ought, therefore, 
to declare themselves out of his protection, and resolve 
on independence. That their proceedings might be in due 
form, a sub-committee, consisting of Doctor Ephraim 



256 Appendix of Documents 

Brevard, a Mr. Kennon, an attorney, and a third person, 
whom I do not recollect, were appointed to draft their 
Declaration. They retired from the court house for some 
time; but the committee continued in session in it. One 
circumstance occurred I distinctly remember: A member 
of the committee, who had said but little before, addressed 
the Chairman as follows: " If you resolve on independence, 
how shall we all be absolved from the obligations of the 
oath we took to be true to King George the 3d about four 
years ago, after the Regulation battle, when we were sworn 
whole militia companies together. I should be glad to 
know how gentlemen can clear their consciences after taking 
that oath." This speech produced confusion. The Chair- 
man could scarcely preserve order, so many wished to 
reply. There appeared great indignation and contempt at 
the speech of the member. Some said it was nonsense; 
others that allegiance and protection were reciprocal ; when 
protection was withdrawn, allegiance ceased; that the 
oath was only binding while the King protected us in the 
enjoyment of our rights and liberties as they existed at the 
time it was taken; which he had not done, but now de- 
clared us out of his protection ; therefore was not binding. 
Any man who would interpret it otherwise, was a fool. 
By way of illustration, (pointing to a green tree near the 
court house,) stated, if he was sworn to do any thing as 
long as the leaves continued on that tree, it was so long 
binding; but when the leaves fell, he was discharged from 
its obligation. This was said to be certainly applicable 
in the present case. Out of respect for a worthy citizen, 
long since deceased, and his respectable connexions, I 
forbear to mention names; for, though he was a friend to 
the cause, a suspicion rested on him in the public mind 
for some time after. 

The sub-committee appointed to draft the resolutions 
returned, and Doctor Ephraim Brevard read their report, 
as near as I can recollect, in the very words we have since 
seen them several times in print. It was unanimously 



State Pamphlet 257 

adopted, and shortly after it was moved and seconded to 
have proclamation made and the people collected, that 
the proceedings be read at the court house door, in order 
that all might hear them. It was done, and they were 
received with enthusiasm. It was then proposed by some 
one aloud to give three cheers and throw up their hats. 
It was immediately adopted, and the hats thrown. Several 
of them lit on the court house roof. The owners had some 
difficulty to reclaim them. 

The foregoing is all from personal knowledge. I under- 
stood afterwards that Captain James Jack, then of Char- 
lotte, undertook, on the request of the committee, to carry 
a copy of their proceedings to Congress, which then sat 
in Philadelphia; and on his way, at Salisbury, the time of 
court, Mr. Kennon, who was one of the committee who 
assisted in drawing the Declaration, prevailed on Captain 
Jack to get his papers, and have them read publicly ; which 
was done, and the proceedings met with general approba- 
tion. But two of the Lawyers, John Dunn and a Mr. Booth, 
dissented, and asserted they were treasonable, and en- 
deavored to have Captain Jack detained. He drew his 
pistols, and threatened to kill the first man who would 
interrupt him, and passed on. The news of this reached 
Charlotte in a short time after, and the executive of the 
committee, whom they had invested with suitable powers, 
ordered a party of ten or twelve armed horsemen to bring 
said Lawyers from Salisbury; when they were brought, 
and the case investigated before the committee. Dunn, on 
giving security and making fair promises, was permitted 
to return, and Booth was sentenced to go to Camden, in 
South Carolina, out of the sphere of his influence. My 
brother George Graham and the late Col. John Carruth 
were of the party that went to Salisbury; and it is dis- 
tinctly remembered that when in Charlotte they came home 
at night, in order to provide for their trip to Camden; and 
that they and two others of the party took Booth to that 
place. This was the first military expedition from Meck- 



;' 

.: 






258 Appendix of Documents 

lenbttrg in the Revolutionary war, and believed to be the 
first any where to the South. 

Yours respectfully. 

J. GRAHAM. 
DR. Jos. M'KT. ALEXANDER. 

Mecklenburg, N. Carolina. 



EXTRACT PROM THE MEMOIR OP THE LATE REV. HUMPHREY 

HUNTER. 

Orders were presently issued by Col. Thos. Polk to the 
several militia companies, that two men, selected from each 
corps, should meet at the Court-House on the i9th of May, 
1 7 7 5 , in order to consult with each other upon such measures 
as might be thought best to be pursued. Accordingly, on 
said day a far larger number than two out of each company 
were present. There was some difficulty in choosing the 
commissioners. To have chosen all thought to be worthy, 
would have rendered the meeting too numerous. The 
following were selected, and styled Delegates, and are here 
given, according to my best recollection, as they were 
placed on roll: Abram Alexander, sen'r, Thomas Polk, 
Rich'd Harris, sen'r, Adam Alexander, Richard Barry, 
John M'Knit Alexander, Neil Morison, Hezekiah Alexander, 
Hezekiah J. Balch, Zacheus Wilson, John Phifer, James 
Harris, William Kennon, John Ford, Henry Downs, Ezra 
Alexander, William Graham, John Queary, Chas. Alex- 
ander, Waitstill Avery, Ephraim Brevard, Benjamin 
Patton, Matthew M'Clure, Robert Irwin, John Flenniken, 
and David Reese. 

Abram Alexander was nominated, and unanimously 
voted to the Chair. John M'Knit Alexander and Ephraim 
Brevard were chosen Secretaries. The Chair being occu- 
pied, and the Clerks seated, the House was called to order 
and proceeded to business. Then a full, a free, and dis- 



State Pamphlet 259 

passionate discussion obtained on the various subjects for 
which the delegation had been convened, and the following 
resolutions were unanimously ordained : 

i st. Resolved, That whosoever directly or indirectly 
abetted, or in any way, form or manner, countenanced the 
unchartered and dangerous invasion of our rights, as 
claimed by Great Britain, is an enemy to this country, to 
America, and to the inherent and inalienable rights of man. 

2d. Resolved, That we, the citizens of Mecklenburg 
county, do hereby dissolve the political bands which have 
connected us to the mother country, and hereby absolve 
ourselves from all allegiance to the British Crown, and 
abjure all political connection, contract, or association, 
with that nation, who have wantonly trampled on our 
rights and liberties, and inhumanly shed the blood of Amer- 
ican patriots at Lexington. 

3d. Resolved, That we do hereby declare ourselves a 
free and independent people; are, and of right ought to 
be, a sovereign and self-governing Association, under the 
control of no power other than that of our God and the 
general government of the Congress; to the maintenance 
of which independence, we solemnly pledge to each other 
our mutual co-operation, our lives, our fortunes, and our 
most sacred honor. 

4th. Resolved, That as we now acknowledge the exist- 
ence and control of no law or legal officer, civil or military, 
within this county, we do hereby ordain and adopt as a 
rule of life, all, each and every of our former laws, 
wherein, nevertheless, the crown of Great Britain never 
can be considered as holding rights, privileges, immunities 
or authority therein. 

$th. Resolved, That it is further decreed, that all, each 
and every military officer in this county, is hereby rein- 
stated in his former command and authority, he acting 
conformably to these regulations. And that every member 
present, of this delegation, shall henceforth be a civil 
officer, viz. a Justice of the Peace, in the character of a 



260 Appendix of Documents 

"Committee-man," to issue process, hear and determine 
all matters of controversy, according to said adopted laws, 
and to preserve peace, union and harmony in said county; 
and to use every exertion to spread the love of country and 
fire of freedom throughout America, until a more general 
and organized government be established in this province. 

Those resolves having been concurred in, bye-laws and 
regulations for the government of a standing Committee 
of Public Safety were enacted and acknowledged. Then a 
select committee was appointed, to report on the ensuing 
day a full and definite statement of grievances, together 
with a more correct and formal draft of the Declaration of 
Independence. The proceedings having been thus arranged 
and somewhat in readiness for promulgation, the Dele- 
gation then adjourned until to-morrow, at 12 o'clock. 

The 2oth of May, at 12 o'clock, the Delegation, as above, 
had convened. The select committee were also present, 
and reported agreeably to instructions, viz. a statement 
of grievances and formal draft of the Declaration of 
Independence, written by Ephraim Brevard, chairman of 
said committee, and read by him to the Delegation. The 
resolves, bye-laws and regulations were read by John 
M'Knitt Alexander. It was then announced from the 
Chair, are you all agreed? There was not a dissenting 
voice. Finally, the whole proceedings were read distinctly 
and audibly, at the Court- House door, by Col. Thomas 
Polk, to a large, respectable and approving assemblage 
of citizens, who were present, and gave sanction to the 
business of the day. A copy of all those transactions were 
then drawn off, and given in charge to Capt. James Jack, 
then of Charlotte, that he should present them to Congress, 
then in session in Philadelphia. 

On that memorable day, I was 20 years and 14 days of 
age, a very deeply interested spectator, recollecting the 
dire hand of oppression that had driven me from my native 
clime, now pursuing me in this happy asylum, and seeking 
to bind again in the fetters of bondage. 



State Pamphlet 261 

On the return of Capt. Jack, he reported that Congress, 
individually, manifested their entire approbation of the 
conduct of the Mecklenburg citizens; but deemed it pre- 
mature to lay them officially before the House. 

NOTE. The foregoing extract is copied from a manuscript 
account of the Revolutionary War in the South, addressed by the 
writer to a friend, who had requested historical information upon 
this subject. Mr. Hunter was in the battle of Camden, and has 
given an interesting narrative of the circumstances connected with 
the death of Baron De Kalb. The manuscript gives the biography 
of the writer, from which it appears he was a native of Ireland, and 
born on the i4th of May, 1755, and at an early age emigrated from 
his native land to the Province of North Carolina. 

ADDITIONAL PAPERS, 

NOT PARTICULARLY REFERRED TO IN THE PREFACE. 



FROM THE RALEIGH REGISTER, OF FEBRUARY l8, 1820. 

MECKLENBURG DECLARATION OF 
INDEPENDENCE. 

When this Declaration was first published in April last, some doubts 
were expressed in the Eastern papers as to its authenticity, 
(none of the Histories of the Revolution having noticed the cir- 
cumstance.) Col. William Polk, of this City, (who, though a mere 
youth at the time, was present at the meeting which made the 
Declaration, and whose Father being Colonel of the county, 
appears to have acted a conspicuous part on the occasion,) 
observing this, assured us of the correctness of the facts generally, 
though he thought there were errors as to the name of the Secre- 
tary, &c., and said that he should probably be able to correct 
these, and throw some further light on the subject, by enquiries 
amongst some of his old friends in Mecklenburg county. He 
has accordingly made enquiries, and communicated to us the 
following Documents as the result, which, we presume, will do 
away all doubts on the subject. 

CERTIFICATE. 
STATE OF NORTH-CAROLINA, 

MECKLENBURG COUNTY. 

At the request of Col. William Polk, of Raleigh, made to 



262 Appendix of Documen 

Major-General George Graham, soliciting him to procure 
all the information that could be obtained at this late 
period, of the transactions which took place in the county 
of Mecklenburg, in the year 1775, as it respected the people 
of that county having declared Independence ; of the time 
when the Declaration was made; who were the principal 
movers and leaders, and the members who composed the 
body of Patriots who made the Declaration, and signed 
the same. 

We, the undersigned citizens of the said county, and of 
the several ages set forth opposite to each of our names, do 
certify, and on our honor declare, that we were present in 
the town of Charlotte, in the said county of Mecklenburg, 
on the i Qth day of May, 1775, when two persons elected 
from each Captain's Company in said county, appeared as 
Delegates, to take into consideration the state of the 
country, and to adopt such measures as to them seemed 
best, to secure their lives, liberty, and property, from the 
storm which was gathering, and had burst upon their 
fellow-citizens to the Eastward, by a British Army, under 
the authority of the British King and Parliament. 

The order for the election of Delegates was given by Col. 
Thomas Polk, the commanding officer of the militia of the 
county, with a request that their powers should be ample, 
touching any measure that should be proposed. 

We do further certify and declare, that to the best of our 
recollection and belief, the delegation was complete from 
every company, and that the meeting took place in the 
Court-House, about 12 o'clock on the said igth day of 
May, 1775, when Abraham Alexander was chosen Chairman, 
and Dr. Ephraim Brevard Secretary. That the Delegates 
continued in session until in the night of that day; that 
on the 2oth they again met, when a committee, under the 
direction of the Delegates, had formed several resolves, 
which were read, and which went to declare themselves, 
and the people of Mecklenburg county, Free and Inde- 
pendent of the King and Parliament of Great Britain 



State Pamphlet 263 

and that, from that day henceforth, all allegiance and po- 
litical relation was absolved between the good people of 
Mecklenburg, and the King of Great Britain; which Decla- 
ration was signed by every member of the Delegation, 
under the shouts and huzzas of a very large assembly of 
the people of the county, who had come to know the issue 
of the meeting. We further believe, that the Declaration 
of Independence was drawn up by the Secretary, Dr. 
Ephraim Brevard, and that it was conceived and brought 
about through the instrumentality and popularity of Col. 
Thomas Polk, Abraham Alexander, John M'Knitt Alexan- 
der, Adam Alexander, Ephraim Brevard, John Phifer, and 
Hezekiah Alexander, with some others. 

We do further certify and declare, that in a few days 
after the Delegates adjourned, Captain James Jack, of the 
town of Charlotte, was engaged to carry the resolves to the 
President of Congress, and to our Representatives one 
copy for each; and that his expenses were paid by a 
voluntary subscription. And we do know that Captain 
Jack executed the trust, and returned with answers, both 
from the President and our Delegates in Congress, expres- 
sive of their entire approbation of the course that had been 
adopted, recommending a continuance in the same; and 
that the time would soon be, when the whole Continent 
would follow our example. 

We further certify and declare, that the measures which 
were adopted at the time before mentioned, had a general 
influence on the people of this county to unite them in 
the cause of liberty and the country, at that time ; that the 
same unanimity and patriotism continued unimpaired to 
the close of the war; and that the resolutions had con- 
siderable effect in harmonising the people in two or three 
adjoining counties. 

That a committee of Safety for the county were elected, 
who were clothed with civil and military power, and under 
their authoiity several disaffected persons in Rowan, and 
Tryon (now Lincoln county), were sent for, examined, 



264 Appendix of Documents 

and conveyed (after it was satisfactorily proven they were 
inimical) to Camden, in South Carolina, for safe-keeping. 
We do further certify, that the acts passed by the com- 
mittee of Safety, were received as the Civil Law of the 
land in many cases, and that Courts of Justice for the 
decision of controversies between the people were held, 
and we have no recollection that dissatisfaction existed 
in any instance with regard to the judgments of said courts. 
We are not, at this late period, able to give the names of 
all the Delegation who formed the Declaration of Inde- 
pendence; but can safely declare as to the following per- 
sons being of the number, viz. Thomas Polk, Abraham 
Alexander, John M'Knitt Alexander, Adam Alexander, 
Ephraim Brevard, John Phifer, Hezekiah James Balsh, 
Benjamin Patton, Hezekiah Alexander, Richard Barry, 
William Graham, Matthew M'Clure, Robert Irwin, Zachias 
Wilson, Neil Morrison, John Flenniken, John Queary, 
Ezra Alexander. 

In testimony of all and every part herein set forth, we 
have hereunto set our hands. 

GEO. GRAHAM, aged 61, near 62. 

WM. HUTCHINSON 68. 

JONAS CLARK 61. 

ROBT ROBINSON, 68. 

PROM JOHN SIMESON TO COL. WILLIAM POLK. 

"Providence, January 20, 1820. 

"Dear Sir, After considerable delay, occasioned partly 
to obtain what information I could, in addition to my own 
knowledge of the facts in relation to our Declaration of 
Independence, and partly by a precarious, feeble old age, 
I now write to you in answer to yours of the 24th ult. 

"I have conversed with many of my old friends and 
others, and all agree in the point, but few can state the 
particulars; for although our county is renowned for 
general intelligence, we have still some that don't read 



State Pamphlet 265 

the public prints. You know, in the language of the day, 
every Province had its Congress, and Mecklenburg had its 
county Congress, as legally chosen as any other, and 
assumed an attitude until then without a precedent; but, 
alas! those worthies who conceived and executed that 
bold measure, are no more; and one reason why so little 
new light can be thrown on an old truth, may be this 
and I appeal to yourself for the correctness of the remark 
we who are now called Revolutionary men, were then 
thoughtless, precipitate youths; we cared not who con- 
ceived the bold act, our business was to adopt and support 
it. Yourself, sir, in your eighteenth year and on the spot, 
your worthy father, the most popular and influential 
character in the county, and yet you cannot state much 
from recollection. Your father, as commanding officer of 
the county, issued orders to the Captains to appoint two 
men from each company to represent them in the commit- 
tee. It was done. Neill Morrison, John Flenniken, from 
this company; Charles Alexander, John M'Knitt Alexan- 
der, Hezekiah Alexander, Abraham Alexander, Esq. John 
Phifer, David Reese, Adam Alexander, Dickey Barry, John 
Queary, with others, whose names I cannot obtain. As to 
the names of those who drew up the Declaration, I am in- 
clined to think Doctor Brevard was the principal, from 
his known talents in composition. It was, however, in 
substance and form, like that great national act agreed 
on thirteen months after. Ours was towards the close of 
May, 1775. In addition to what I have said, the same 
committee appointed three men to secure all the military 
stores for the county's use Thomas Polk, John Phifer, 
and Joseph Kennedy. I was under arms near the head of 
the line, near Col. Polk, and heard him distinctly read a 
long string of Grievances, the Declaration and Military 
Order above. I likewise heard Col. Polk have two warm 
disputes with two men of the county, who said the measures 
were rash and unnecessary. He was applauded and they 
silenced. I was then in my 22d year, an enemy to usur- 



266 Appendix of Documents 

pation and tyranny of every kind, with a retentive memory, 
and fond of liberty, that had a doubt arisen in my mind 
that the act would be controverted, proof would not have 
been wanting; but I comfort myself that none but the 
self-important peace-party and blue-lights of the East, 
will have the assurance to oppose it any further. The 
biographer of Patrick Henry (Mr. Wirt) says he first sug- 
gested Independence in the Virginia Convention; but it is 
known they did not reduce it to action so that it will pass 
for nothing. The Courts likewise acted independently. I 
myself heard a dispute take place on the bench, and an 
acting magistrate was actually taken and sent to prison 
by an order of the Chairman. 

"Thus, sir, have I thrown together all that I can at this 
time. I am too blind to write fair, and too old to write 
much sense but if my deposition before the Supreme 
Court of the United States would add more weight to a 
truth so well known here, it should be at the service of my 
fellow-citizens of the county and State generally. 

"I am, sir, your friend and humble servant, 

"JOHN SIMESON, Sen. 

P. S. I will give you a short anecdote. An aged man 
near me, on being asked if he knew any thing of this affair, 
replied, "Och, aye, TAM POLK declared Independence lang 
before anybody else." This old man is 81. 



CERTIFICATE OF ISAAC ALEXANDER. 

I hereby certify that I was present in Charlotte on the 
ipth and 2oth days of May, 1775, when a regular depu- 
tation from all the Captains' companies of militia in the 
county of Mecklenburg, to wit: Col. Thomas Polk, Adam 
Alexander, Lieut. Col. Abram Alexander, John M'Knitt 
Alexander, Hezekiah Alexander, Ephraim Brevard and a 
number of others, who met to consult and take measures 
for the peace and tranquillity of the citizens of said county, 



State Pamphlet 267 

and who appointed Abraham Alexander their Chairman, 
and Doctor Ephraim Brevard Secretary; who, after due 
consultation, declared themselves absolved from their 
allegiance to the King of Great Britain, and drew up a 
Declaration of their Independence, which was unanimously 
adopted ; and employed Capt. James Jack to carry copies 
thereof to Congress, who accordingly went. These are a 
part of the transactions that took place at that time, as 
far as my recollection serves me. 

ISAAC ALEXANDER. 
October 8, 1830. 

CERTIFICATE OP SAM*L WILSON. 

STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA, ) 
MECKLENBURG COUNTY. ) 

I do hereby certify, that in May, 1775, a committee or 
delegation from the different militia companies in this 
county, met in Charlotte; and after consulting together, 
they publicly declared their independence on Great Britain, 
and on her Government. This was done before a large 
collection of people, who highly approved of it. I was then 
and there present, and heard it read from the Court House 
door. Certified by me. 

SAM'L WILSON. 

CERTIFICATE OF JOHN DAVIDSON. 

Beaver Dam, October 5, 1830. 

DEAR SIR, I received your note of the 25th of last 
month, requiring information relative to the Mecklenburg 
Declaration of Independence. As I am, perhaps, the only 
person living, who was a member of that Convention, and 
being far advanced in years, and not having my mind fre- 
quently directed to that circumstance for some years, I 
can give you but a very succinct history of that transaction. 
There were two men chosen from each Captain's company, 



268 Appendix of Documents 

to meet in Charlotte, to take the subject into consideration. 
John M'Knitt Alexander and myself were chosen from one 
company; and many other members were there that I 
now recollect, whose names I deem unnecessary to mention. 
When the members met, and were perfectly organized for 
business, a motion was made to declare ourselves inde- 
pendent of the Crown of Great Britain, which was carried 
by a large majority. Dr. Ephraim Brevard was then ap- 
pointed to give us a sketch of the Declaration of Independ- 
ence, which he did. James Jack was appointed to take it 
on to the American Congress, then sitting in Philadelphia, 
with particular instructions to deliver it to the North 
Carolina Delegation in Congress, (Hooper and Caswell.) 
When Jack returned, he stated that the Declaration was 
presented to Congress, and the reply was, that they highly 
esteemed the patriotism of the citizens of Mecklenburg; 
but they thought the measure too premature. 

I am confident that the Declaration of Independence by 
the people of Mecklenburg was made public at least twelve 
months before that of the Congress of the United States. 

I do certify that the foregoing statement, relative to 
the Mecklenburg Independence, is correct, and which I 
am willing to be qualified to, should it be required. 
Yours respectfully, 

JOHN DAVIDSON. 

Doct. J. M. ALEXANDER. 

NOTE. The following is a copy of an original paper furnished by 
the writer of the foregoing certificate, from which it would seem, 
that from the period of the Mecklenburg Declaration, every indi- 
vidual friendly to the American cause was furnished by the Chair- 
man of that meeting, ABRAM ALEXANDER, with testimonials of the 
character he had assumed; and in this point of view the paper 
affords strong collateral testimony of the correctness of many of 
the foregoing certificates. 

NORTH CAROLINA, MECKLENBURG COUNTY, ) 
November 28, 1775. f 

These may certify to all whom they may concern, that the bearer 



State Pamphlet 269 

hereof, William Henderson, is allowed here to be a true friend to 
liberty, and signed the Association. 

Certified by ABR'M ALEXANDER, Chairman 

of the Committee of P. S. 



LETTER FROM J. G. M. RAMSEY. 

Mecklenburg, T. Oct. i, 1830. 

DEAR SIR, Yours of 2ist ultimo was duly received. In 
answer I have only to say, that little is in my possession 
on the subject alluded to which you have not already seen. 
Subjoined are the certificates of two gentlemen of this 
county, whose respectability and veracity are attested 
by their acquaintances here, as well as by the accompany- 
ing testimonials of the magistrates in whose neighborhood 
they reside. With this you will also receive extracts from 
letters on the same subject from gentlemen well known to 
you, and to the country at large. 

I am, very respectfully, yours, &c. 

J. G. M. RAMSEY. 



CERTIFICATE OF JAMES JOHNSON. 

I, James Johnson, now of Knox county, Tennessee, but 
formerly of Mecklenburg county, North Carolina, do here- 
by certify, that to the best of my recollection, in the 
month of May, 1775, there were several meetings in Char- 
lotte concerning the impending war. Being young, I was 
not called on to take an active part in the same; but 
one thing I do positively remember, that she (Mecklen- 
burg county) did meet and hold a Convention, declared 
independence, and sent a man to Philadelphia with the 
proceedings. And I do further certify, that I am well ac- 
quainted with several of the men who formed or constituted 
said Convention, viz. John M'Knitt Alexander, Hezekiah 



2;o Appendix of Documents 

Alexander, Abraham Alexander, Adam Alexander, Robert 
Irwin, Neill Morrison, John Flenniken, John Queary. 
Certified by me this nth day of October, 1827. 

JAMES JOHNSON. 
In my seventy-third year. 



CERTIFICATE OP ELIJAH JOHNSON AND JAMES WILHITE. 

We, Elijah Johnson and James Wilhite, acting Justices 
of the Peace for the county of Knox, do certify, that we 
have been a long time well acquainted with Samuel Mont- 
gomery and James Johnson, both residents of Knox county; 
and that they are entitled to full credit, and any statement 
they may make to implicit confidence. 

Given under our hands and seals this 4th day of October 
1830. 

ELIJAH JOHNSON, (Seal.) 
JAMES WILHITE, (Seal.) 
Justices of the Peace for Knox county. 

NOTE. Mr. Montgomery's certificate does not purport to state 
the facts as having come under his own personal observation It 
is therefore omitted in this publication. 



c. 

THE MECKLENBURG RESOLVES AS PRINTED IN THE 
NORTH-CAROLINA GAZETTE OF JUNE 16, 1775, No. 323.' 

Charlotte Town, Mecklenburg County, May 31. 
This Day the COMMITTEE met, and passed the following 
RESOLVES: 

WHEREAS by an Address presented to his Majesty 
by both Houses of Parliament in February last, the Amer- 
ican Colonies are declared to be in a State of actual Re- 
bellion, \ve conceive that all Laws and Commissions con- 
firmed by, or derived from the Authority of the King or 
Parliament, are annulled and vacated, and the former 
civil Constitution of these Colonies for the present wholly 
suspended. To provide in some Degree for the Exigencies 
of the County in the present alarming Period, we deem 
it proper and necessary to pass the following RESOLVES, viz. 

1. That all Commissions, civil and military, heretofore 
granted by the Crown, to be exercised in these Colonies, 
are null and void, and the Constitution of each particular 
Colony wholly suspended. 

2. That the Provincial Congress of each Province, 
under the Direction of the Great Continental Congress, 
is invested with all legislative and executive Powers 
within their respective Provinces; and that no other 
Legislative or Executive does or can exist, at this Time, 
in any of these Colonies. 

3. As all former Laws are now suspended in this Pro- 
vince, and the Congress have not yet provided others, we 

1 From a photograph of the original newspaper. 
271 



272 Appendix of Documents 

judge it necessary, for the better Preservation of good 
Order, to form certain Rules and Regulations for the 
internal Government of this County, until Laws shall be 
provided for us by the Congress. 

4. That the Inhabitants of this County do meet on a 
certain Day appointed by this Committee, and having 
formed themselves into nine Companies, to wit, eight for 
the County, and one for the Town of Charlotte, do choose 
a Colonel, and other military Officers, who shall hold and 
exercise their several Powers by Virtue of this Choice, 
and independent of Great-Britain, and former Constitution 
of this Province. 

5. That for the better Preservation of the Peace, and 
Administration of Justice, each of these Companies do 
choose from their own Body two discreet Freeholders, 
who shall be impowered each by himself, and singly, to 
decide and determine all Matters of Controversy arising 
within the said Company under the Sum of Twenty Shillings, 
and jointly and together all Controversies under the Sum 
of Forty Shillings, yet so as their Decisions may admit of 
Appeals to the Convention of the Select Men of the whole 
County; and also, that any one of these shall have Power 
to examine, and commit to Confinement, Persons accused 
of Petit Larceny. 

6. That those two Select Men, thus chosen, do, jointly 
and together, choose from the Body of their particular 
Company two Persons, properly qualified to serve as 
Constables, who may assist them in the Execution of their 
Office. 

7. That upon the Complaint of any Person to either of 
these Select Men, he do issue his Warrant, directed to the 
Constable, commanding him to bring the Aggressor before 
him or them to answer the said Complaint. 

8. That these eighteen Select Men, thus appointed, 
do meet every third Tuesday in January, April, July, 
and October, at the Court-House in Charlotte, to hear and 
determine all Matters of Controversy for Sums exceeding 



North Carolina Gazette Resolves 27:3 |*r 

4tt.tt*gvta< 

Forty Shillings; also Appeals: And in Cases of Felony, 
to commit the Person or Persons convicted thereof to 
close Confinement, until the Provincial Congress shall 
provide and establish Laws and Modes of Proceeding in 
such Cases. 

9. That these Eighteen Select Men, thus convened, do 
choose a Clerk to record the Transactions of the said 
Convention ; and that the said Clerk, upon the Application 
of any Person or Persons aggrieved, do issue his Warrant 
to one of the Constables, to summons and warn the said 
Offender to appear before the Convention at their next 
sitting, to answer the aforesaid Complaint. 

10. That any Person making Complaint upon Oath to 
the Clerk, or any Member of the Convention, that he has 
Reason to suspect that any Person or Persons indebted to 
him in a Sum above Forty Shillings, do intend clandestinely 
to withdraw from the County without paying such Debt; 
the Clerk, or such Member, shall issue his Warrant to the 
Constable, commanding him to take the said Person or 
Persons into safe Custody, until the next sitting of the 
Convention. 

1 1 . That when a Debtor for a Sum below Forty Shillings 
shall abscond and leave the County, the Warrant granted 
as aforesaid shall extend to any Goods or Chattels of the 
said Debtor as may be found, and such Goods or Chattels 
be seized and held in Custody by the Constable for the 
Space of Thirty Days; in which Term if the Debtor fails 
to return and discharge the Debt, the Constable shall 
return the Warrant to one of the Select Men of the Company 
where the Goods and Chattels were found, who shall issue 
Orders to the Constable to sell such a Part of the said 
Goods as shall amount to the Sum due; that when the 
Debt exceeds Forty Shillings, the Return shall be made 
to the Convention, who shall issue the Orders for Sale. 

12. That Receivers and Collectors for Quitrents, Public 
and County Taxes, do pay the same into the Hands of the 
Chairman of this Committee, to be by them disbursed as> 



274 Appendix of Documents 

the public Exigencies may require. And that such Re- 
ceivers and Collectors proceed no farther in their Office 
until they be approved of by, and have given to this Com- 
mittee good and sufficient Security for a faithful Return 
of such Monies when collected. 

13. That the Committee be accountable to the County 
for the Application of all Monies received from such Officers. 

14. That all these Officers hold their Commissions 
during the Pleasure of their respective Constituents. 

15. That this Committee will sustain all Damages that 
may ever hereafter accrue to all or any of these Officers 
thus appointed, and thus acting, on Account of their 
Obedience and Conformity to these Resolves. 

1 6. That whatever Person shall hereafter receive a 
Commission from the Crown, or attempt to exercise any 
such Commission heretofore received, shall be deemed 
an Enemy to his Country; and upon Information being 
made to the Captain of the Company where he resides 
the said Captain shall cause him to be apprehended, and 
conveyed before the two Select Men of the said Company, 
who, upon Proof of the Fact, shall commit him the said 
Offender into safe Custody, until the next sitting of the 
Convention, who shall deal with him as Prudence may 
direct. 

17. That any Person refusing to yield Obedience to the 
above Resolves shall be deemed equally criminal, and 
liable to the same Punishments as the Offenders above 
last mentioned. 

1 8. That these Resolves be in 'all Force and Virtue, 
until Instructions from the Geneial Congress of this 
Province, regulating the Jurisprudence of this Province, 
shall provide otherwise, or the Legislative Body of Great- 
Britain resign its unjust and arbitrary Pretensions with 
Respect to America. 

19. That the several Militia Companies in this county 
do provide themselves with proper Arms and Accoutre- 
ments, and hold themselves in constant Readiness to 



North Carolina Gazette Resolves 275 

execute the commands and Directions of the Provincial 
Congress, and of this committee. 

20. That this committee do appoint Colonel Thomas 
Polk, and Doctor Joseph Kennedy, to purchase 300 Ib. of 
Powder, 600 Ib. of Lead, and 1000 Flints; and deposit 
the same in some safe Place, hereafter to be appointed by 
the committee. 

Signed by Order of the Committee. 
EPH. BREVARD, Clerk of the Committee. 

The North-Carolina Gazette of June 16, 1775, 
from which the foregoing resolves are copied, was 
recently found by Mr. Edward P. Moses, of Raleigh, 
in the library of Hayes, the residence of Samuel 
Johnston, the Revolutionary statesman, near 
Edenton, N. C. Mr. Moses found with it a letter 
of Richard Cogdell, chairman of the Craven county 
Committee, dated New Bern, June 18, 1775. The 
newspaper was undoubtedly enclosed in this 
letter, which bears internal evidence of having 
been addressed to Richard Caswell, at Philadel- 
phia. Cogdell writes that the Craven Committee 
has put into execution measures similar to those 
recommended by Caswell. " We have Transmited 
the Copy of Our proceedings," he says, ''to every 
County & Town in the Province, and have had 
the pleasure to hear many Counties have adopted 
the Same. Our County of Craven have had their 
private musters and Ellected their Officers. . . . 
you'l Observe the Mecklinburg Resolves, exceeds 
all other Committees, or the Congress itself. I 
Send you the paper, wherein they are inserted as 
I hope this will come Soon to hand." 



D. 

TRANSCRIPT OF THE MECKLENBURG RESOLVES IN THE 
CAPE-FEAR MERCURY OF JUNE 23, 1775, SENT IN 
GOVERNOR MARTIN'S DUPLICATE LETTER OF JUNE 
30, 1775, TO LORD DARTMOUTH.* 

North Carolina Charlotte Town Mecklenburgh County 
This day the Committee of ys County met and passed 
the following resolves. Whereas by an address presented 
to His Majesty by both Houses of Parliament in February 
last, the Americans are declared Rebels, We conceive that 
all the laws and Commissions Conferred by or derived from 
the authority of the King or Parliament are Annulled and 
void, and the former Constitution of the Colonies for the 
present wholly Suspended To provide in some degree 
for the exigencies of this County in this Alarming Situation, 
We deem it proper and Necessary to pass the following 
Resolves. 

Resolved 

I st That all Commissions Civil and Military heretofore 
granted by the Crown to be exercised in this Colony to be 
Null and Void, and the Constitution of each particular 
Colony wholly Suspended 

2 d That the provincial Congress of each province under 
the direction of the Great Continental Congress is invested 
with all the legislative and Executive Authority with their 
respective provinces, and that no legislative or Executive 
power does or can Exist at this time in any of their Colonies. 
3? As all former laws are now Suspended in this Province 

1 From the original manuscript in the possession of the Earl of 
Dartmouth. 

276 



Cape Fear Mercury Resolves 277 

and the Congress have not yet provided others, we judge 
it necessary for the better preservation of good order to 
perform good rules & Regulations for the internal Govern- 
ment of this County untill laws shall be provided for us 
by the Congress. 

4 th That the Inhabitants of this County do meet on a 
certain day appointed by the Committee, and having 
formed themselves into 9 Companies, Viz. 8 in the County 
and i in the Town of Charlotte do chuse a Colonel & other 
Malitia officers, who shall hold and Exercise their Several 
Powers by virtue of this Choice and independant of the 
Crown of Great Britain and the former Constitution of this 
Province. 

5 th That for the better preservation of the Peace and 
Administration of Justice, Each of their Companies do 
Chuse from their own body two discreet Freeholders who 
shall be empowered each by himself and singly to decide 
and determine all Matters of Controversy, arising within 
the Said Company under the Sum of Twenty Shillings 
and jointly all Controversies under 40, yet so as their 
Decision may admit of an appeal to the Convention of 
the Select Men of the whole County, and also that any one 
of these men have power to Examine & Commit to Con- 
finement persons accused of Petty Larceny. 
6 th That these two Select Men thus chosen do jointly and 
together chuse from the Body of their particular Company 
two persons properly qualified to act as Constables who 
may assist them in the Execution of their office. 
7 th That upon the Complaint to either of these Select 
Men do issue their Warrant directed to the Constable to 
bring the Aggressor before him or them to answer the Said 
Complaint. 

8 th That these Eighteen Select Men thus Appointed 
do meet every third Tuesday in Jan ry , April, July and 
October at the Court House in Charlotte Town to hear 
and determine all Matters of Controversies for Sums ex- 
ceeding 40 shillings also Appeals, and in case of Felony 



278 Appendix of Documents 

to commit their Person or persons to close Confinement 
untill the Provincial Congress shall provide and Constitute 
Laws and mode of proceedings in such Cases. 
9 1 ? That these eighteen Select Men thus Convened do 
chuse a Clerk to record the transactions of the said Con- 
ventions, and that the Clerk upon the Application of any 
Person or Persons aggrieved do issue their Warrant to 
one of the Constables to summon and warn the said 
Offender to appear before the said Convention at their 
next meeting to answer the aforesaid Complaint. 

lo* That any person making Complaint upon oath 
to the Clerk or any member of the Convention that he has 
reason to Suspect that any Person or Persons indebted 
to him in a Sum above 40 shillings do intend Clandestinely 
to withdraw from the County without paying such Debt, 
the Clerk or such Member shall issue his Warrant to the 
Constable commanding him to take the said Person or 
Persons into safe Custody untill the next Sitting of the 
Convention. 

n* That when a Debtor in a Sum under 40^ shall abscond 
and leave the County, the Warrant granted as aforesaid 
shall extend to any Goods or Chatties of the said Debtor 
as may be found, and if such Goods or Chatties so seized 
and held in Custody for the Space of 30 days in which time 
the Debtor fail to return and discharge the debt, the Con- 
stable shall return the Warrant to any of the said Select 
Men of the Company where the goods or Chatties are found 
who shall issue orders to the Constable to sell such a Part 
of the said Goods as shall amount to the Sum due, that 
when the Debt shall exceed 40 sh the return shall be made 
to the Convention who shall issue their Order for Sale 
12* That all Receivers and Collectors of Quitrents, 
Publick & County Taxes do pay the Same into the hand 
of the Chairman of this County to be by them dispersed 
as the Publick Exigencies may require, and that such 
Receivers and Collectors proceed no farther in their office 
untill they be approved off by, and have given to their 



Cape-Fear Mercury Resolves 279 

Committee good and sufficient Security for a faithful 
return of such Money when Collected. 

13 th That the Committee shall be accountable to the 
County for the Application of all money received by such 
publick officers. 

I4 1 . 11 That all those officers shall hold their Commissions 
during the Pleasure of their respective Constituents. 
i^ That this Committee shall satisfy all Demands that 
ever hereafter may accrue to all or any of these their 
Officers thus Appointed and thus Acting on account of 
their Obedience in Conformity to these Resolves. 
1 6 th . That whatever Person shall hereafter receive a Com- 
mission from the Crown or Attempt to exercise such 
Commission heretofore received shall be deemed an Enemy 
to his Country, and upon information being made to the 
Captain of the Company in which he resides, the said 
Captain shall cause him to be apprehended and Convey 
him before the two Select Men of the s? Company who 
upon the proof of the Fact shall commit him the said 
Offender to safe Custody, 'till the next meeting of the 
Convention who shall deal with him as they in their 
Prudence direct. 

1 7^ That any person refusing to yeild Obedience to the 
above Resolves shall be considered as equal Enemies and 
liable to the same punishment as the Offenders above last 
mentioned. 

1 8 th That these Resolves shall be in full force and Virtue 
untill Instructions from the Continental Congress, regu- 
lating the just proceedings of this province shall provide 
otherwise or the legislative body of Great Britain resign 
it's unjust & arbitrary pretentions with respect to America 
and no longer. 

i9 t . h That the several Malitia Company in this County 
do provide themselves with proper Arms and Accoutre- 
ments and hold themselves in constant readiness to 
execute the command and advice of the General Congress 
of this Province & of this Committee. 



28o Appendix of Documents 

20 th That the Committee Appoint Colonel Tho? Polk & 
DT Joseph Kennedy to purchase 3oo lbs of Gun Powder & 
6oo lbs of Lead & 1000 flints for the use of the Malitia in 
this County and deposite the Same in some safe place 
hereafter to be appointed by the Committee to be cautiously 
kept untill the safety & defence of their Colony shall 
require use to make use of it in defence of our Country 
and Liberty. 

Signed by order of the Committee 
Ephraim Brevard 



E. 

COLONEL WILLIAM FOLK'S ACCOUNT OF FIRST REVO- 
LUTIONARY MOVEMENTS IN NORTH CAROLINA. 

The first revolutionary movements in this State as far 
as recollection serves, were almost simultaneous throughout 
the same; yet there were sections in which the zeal for 
the common cause & opposition to the right of G Britain 
to impose taxes upon the Colonies & regulate the internal 
policy thereof, had taken deeper root and was nourished 
by the popular leaders, so as to take a lead in the measures 
to be adopted. It was in the Sea Port towns the proposition 
for a convention began, under the influence of Harnett, 
Howe, Hooper, the Moores & Ashes at Wilmington; Nash, 
Coor, Leech & Cogdell at Newbern, S. Johnston, Hughes, 
Harvey & others at Edenton, aided in the interior by 
Caswell, Blount, W ! : Hill, Willie & Allen Jones, Williams, 
Person, Penn, Bourke, Hart, Kinchen, Martin, Souther- 
land, Rutherford, Locke, Sharpe, Polk, Phifer, Alexanders, 
Spencer, Wade, Rowan, Owen, Kenon, Dicksons & others. 
The Convention met on the 27** of August 1774 at Newbern, 
and appointed John Harvey their President; the Speaker 
of the House of Assembly under the Colonial Gov- it was 
at this Convention; three Delegates were elected to meet 
at Philadelphia a general Congress from all the States 
William Hooper, Joseph Hughes & R? Caswell were 
elected, and served for one year; when John Penn at a 
Convention held at Hillsb- Aug' 1775 was elected in the 
place of R? Caswell, appointed Treasurer of the Southern 
District. 

281 



282 Appendix of Documents 

It was not untill about the meeting of the Delegates in 
Aug* 1775 the idea of self government had been entertained 
but by a few of the leading characters at this Session there 
was two Regiments of Infantry ordered to be raised on the 
Continental establishment three Regiments of Minute 
men ; a Committee of safety ; and the members who should 
compose it regulations for the administration of Justice 
under the authority of the State Congress appointment 
of Militia Officers in the several Counties means for pur- 
chasing powder lead, & making of salt petre. At this 
Session a Test was required of each Member; professing 
allegiance to the King and the constitutional power of the 
Gov* ; but declaring at same time most solemnly & abso- 
lutely that neither the Parliment, nor any constitutent 
branch thereof have a Right to impose taxes; and that all 
attempts by fraud or force to exercise such powers are 
violations & ought to be resisted to the utmost: and fur- 
ther that the People singly & collectively are bound by 
the Acts of the Continental & Provincal Congresses; be- 
cause they are freely represented there by persons of their 
own choice they further solemnly & sincerly promise & 
engage, under the sanction of Virtue, Honour, & sacred 
Love of liberty & Country ; to maintain and support all & 
every act resolution & regulation of the said Congresses. 
To this test the Members present subscribed, to the number 
of 181; of which number there are only 7 now living viz. 
Thomas Henderson of Rockenham, Jos. Williams of Surry, 
Ransome Southerland of Wake, Waightstill Avery of 
Burke, James Houston of Iredell & Tho- Gray & James 
Glasgow now of Tennessee. [Here appear the account of the 
Mecklenburg Declaration and text of the resolutions which are 
reproduced in pages 184-193 of this volume.] Such was the 
fame & energetic conduct of Thomas Polk & John Phifer two 
of the most popular men in the County, that the Council of 
safety from a knowledge of the enthusiastic spirit of the 
People & the opposition which they had & were still making 
against British encroachments on their liberty & of the 



William Folk's Narrative 283 

influence these two characters had, did on the 3? of March 
1776 commission them to raise a Reg* of 750 men on the 
Cont- 1 establishment. At the time Lord Cornwallis followed 
his victory over Gates & marched to Charlotte, there was 
not a Continental soldier nigher than Hillsb? the People 
of Mecklenburg, & particularly those in the Town & its 
immediate vicinity sent of their Wives & families & after 
having accompanyed them a few miles; returned & joined 
their several captains commands & hung night & day on the 
enemies lines. Their foraging parties were never permitted 
to return to Camp without being fired on from every favour- 
able situation all intercourse between Charlotte & Cam- 
den, the British Military Deposit in the middle grounds of 
S? Carolina, was completely shut up & put a stop to their 
Picquets were fired on & harrassed every night & in fine 
there was no communication between the enemes Posts, 
nor could his Lordship ascertain what force was collecting 
against him in this situation he remained n days & on 
the night of the 12^ he left the place preciptately, leaving 
behind him more than 50 Waggons & much Plunder; 
retracing his steps to within the British lines whilst the 
Militia were hanging on his rear & flanks in times, 20. & 
50 An officer of the British Army in writing to his corre- 
spondent in England, gives an account of the privations 
to which the Army were subjected to in Charlotte, N. C. & 
calls it the Hornetts Nest. 



E. 

COLONEL WILLIAM FOLK'S ACCOUNT OF FIRST REVO- 
LUTIONARY MOVEMENTS IN NORTH CAROLINA. 

The Resolutions of the Mecklenburg Delegates, is taken 
from a manuscript copy given by Doctor Jos. McKnitt 
Alexander of Mecklenburg I cannot vouch for their 
being in the words of the Committee who framed them; 
but they are essentially so. 



284 Appendix of Documents 

I had intended to have given you the names of these 
Patriots who formed the Delegation & who passed the 
Resolutions, but I have not been fortunate enough to 
obtain the whole of them At the time this meeting took 
place & for years before & after my Father Thomas Polk 
was the most popular man in the County, had represented 
it many years under the Colonial system & was one of 
the first Delegates from the County to the Provincial 
Congress & it was almost altogether attributal to him, the 
course that was taken by the people of that County the 
effects of which reached & was felt in the Counties of 
Rowan, Iredell & Lincoln 

The following are some of the names alluded to 

Thomas Polk 

Abraham Alexander 

Jn? McKnitt Alexander 

Ephraim Brevard 
Rev? Hezekiah James Balch 

Adam Alexander 

John Phifer 

James Harris 

John Query 

Zacheus Wilson Sen? 

Waightstill Avery 

W Kennon 

John Ford 

Benj? Patton. 

When on my way thro' Mecklenburg I may procure 
the bal. if so you shall hear from me W P 

[Indorsed by Col. Polk: 

" First revolutionary 
movements & C." 

Indorsed by Judge Murphey: 

"74-75 
published"] 



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